Mountain Area school districts have improved in English and mathematics, but all fall behind the rest of the state in at least one of those subjects, according to the latest California testing results.
The Smarter Balanced assessment measures the performance of high school juniors as well as elementary students from 3rd through 8th grade. Results are then ranked in four categories: standard exceeded; standard met; standard nearly met; and standard not met.
Aligned with Common Core standards, the test’s first results were released last year and were considered by many educators as a baseline for improvement. This year’s results, tested in 2015, were released last month.
YUSD leads county
At the district level, Yosemite Unified School District (YUSD) is the top performer for Eastern Madera County in both English and math. For students meeting or exceeding both English and mathematics standards, Yosemite Unified (Yosemite High, Coarsegold Elementary, Evergreen High, Rivergold Elementary) scored a total of 50% and 34%.
Only Golden Valley Unified in the Valley scores better, with scores of 58% in English and 42% as a district in math.
Chawanakee Unified School District (Minarets High, Chawanakee Academy Charter, North Fork Elementary, Spring Valley Elementary) scored 42% and 28% respectively.
YUSD Superintendent Jim Sargent said his district is pleased with the testing results while transitioning into a new Common Core curriculum.
“We’re very happy to see our level of success that we have the best district scores in the area,” Sargent said. “We look to continue improving those results. And obviously there’s a lot more ways to test a student’s skills, abilities, and talents. One test doesn’t provide the whole picture.”
Chawanakee Unified Superintendent Darren Sylvia agreed that Smarter Balanced, a relatively new testing system, is only one way to measure a student’s performance and may not accurately represent their skill levels.
“Learning is measured in a variety of ways, not just in test results but in educating the whole child,” Sylvia said.
Big improvement for MHS
Out of all Madera County high schools, none improved more from the previous year than Minarets High School. In 2014 tests (results released in 2015), the school met or exceeded English standards by only 17% each, with more than 60% of its students falling behind.
But in results released last month, those numbers jumped a whopping 26% in both exceeding and meeting English standards, from 34% of students last year to a current total of 86%.
That puts Minarets at the highest percentage of students both exceeding and meeting English standards out of all county high schools. For the mountains, they’re followed by Glacier High School Charter at 77%, Minarets Charter at 76%, and Yosemite High School at 69%.
In mathematics, Minarets also earned the county’s top spot for high schools, as it improved from 8% of students who met or exceeded standards to 40%, followed by Minarets Charter (37%), Mountain Home Charter (33%), Yosemite High (25%), and Glacier High School Charter (24%).
Minarets Principal Daniel Ching said even with such notable improvements, the Mustangs have no plans to slow their academic growth.
“We are just getting started in terms of reaching our goals as a school,” Ching said. “But we are very proud of what we have accomplished.”
Ching pointed to the school’s focus on project based learning, such as writing, researching, and producing short films as a reason for the success because it helps students develop a variety of skills.
“We are thankful to the passionate staff, students, and community for their commitment to our vision and mission,” Ching added, saying the school will continue to use data and other monitoring methods to further improve Minarets academics. “Our students are incredible and our community is active.”
Yosemite High showed improvements, although more subtle. While 30% of Yosemite students now exceed the English standard, 39% have met it - an increase of 5% and 1% respectively from results released last year. In mathematics, 7% of YHS students exceeded the standard (8% last year), 18% met it (17%), 35% nearly met the goal (28%), and 40% have not met it (47%).
YHS Principal Randy Seals said the school’s focus isn’t on testing scores, but on continuous improvement to academics with programs such as International Baccalaureate, advanced placement classes, robotics, fine arts, music, and career tech.
“Our mission is to provide a first-class educational experience for every high school student,” Seals said. “By enhancing our programs and delivering high-quality instruction and experiences to our students, our test scores will take care of themselves.”
Bass Lake and Raymond-Knowles
Bass Lake Joint Union School District (Oakhurst Elementary, Wasuma Elementary, Oak Creek Intermediate, Fresno Flats Community Day) had a total 41% of students meet or exceed standards in English, and 37% in math. Students at Raymond-Knowles Union School District (Raymond-Knowles Elementary) scored 50% and 28% in the same respective subjects, at notable increases of 25% and 10% from last year.
Compared to the state, however, every school district in the county falters in at least one subject.
At the state level, 49% of students either meet or exceed standards in English, and 37% achieve those same successes in math.
Yosemite Union and Raymond-Knowles have higher scores than the state average in English with scores of 50%, while Chawanakee and Bass Lake school districts score lower at 42% and 41%.
In math, only Bass Lake Joint Union ties the state at 37%. YUSD scored 34% while CUSD and Raymond-Knowles Union each scored 28%.
Complete test results, including comparison between schools or districts, can be found at http://bit.ly/2cg1HVm, then clicking on the “Search Smarter Balanced Results” button to the right of the screen.