SMMUSD HDQTRS ‚Äî Standardized test scores for students in Santa Monica and Malibu public schools remained relatively flat, mirroring the performance of students statewide, according to results released this week, but the school district did see decent gains in science and history.
The Standardized Testing and Reporting exam, or STAR, is a statewide test that 4.7 million California students in grades 2 through 11 participated in.
Maureen Bradford, director of assessment, research and evaluation for the SMMUSD, said officials were “somewhat disappointed” in not making gains in mathematics and language arts.
“We would love to see growth, but for a district like ours that is relatively high performing you do anticipate years where there is a slight dip or a plateau,” Bradford said. “What we look for growth over time. From one year to the next there are going to be ups and downs.”
The results come as schools across California are gearing up for a transition to the Common Core State Standards, a set of expectations adopted by states across the country that emphasize a new style of learning that values critical thinking over rote memorization and application of concepts to real-world situations.
SMMUSD Superintendent Sandra Lyon said despite years of budget cuts and uncertainty and a transition to the Common Core State Standards, the school district‚Äôs teachers and staff remain “focused” on student learning.
“We have created a multi-year plan to continue to work with our staff to address equity and access so that all children who cross the threshold of a school in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District have high-quality educations and are ready for college and careers and the opportunity to fulfill their dreams,” Lyon said in an e-mail.
The school district is the model for “incremental steady growth,” Bradford said. In the last 10 years, she said all of the schools had double digit growth in each subject area, which school district officials are proud of.
“As you creep up towards the top of a scale, it becomes harder and harder to maintain that incline,” she said.
In mathematics, 62 percent of test takers reached proficiency while 75 percent of students hit the mark in language arts.
Those percentages include students in grades 2 through 11 who took English exams and the students in grades 2 through 7 who took math exams, as well as those who took “end of course” exams, which can include algebra and geometry as well as other forms of math.
In language arts, Bradford said this year‚Äôs plateau comes on the heels of seven years of gains.
State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said, as expected for a school system in transition, results varied from grade to grade, subject to subject and school to school.
“While we all want to see California’s progress continue, these results show that in the midst of change and uncertainty, teachers and schools kept their focus on students and learning,” Torlakson said in a news release. “That’s a testament to the depth of their commitment to their students and the future of our state.”
Across the state, the 2013 STAR results show that a significant achievement gap continues to exist for African-Americans, Hispanic/Latino, low income and English-learner students, compared to their peers.
But for the SMMUSD, there were some bright spots in the test results this year.
“We still have achievement gaps but they have narrowed over time,” Bradford said. “For some of our groups, particularly this year, students with disabilities have made really good growth. We‚Äôre happy about that.”
She said there was a seven-point gain for students with disabilities.
In history and science where school officials saw progress, test takers jumped in proficiency to 63 percent from 61 percent in history, Bradford said. For science, 78 percent reached proficiency compared to 76 percent last year. Those percentages include students in grades 8 and 11 and “end of course” exams in history and students in grades 5, 8 and 10 in science.
This year, there were one-point gains for Latinos and African-Americans, Bradford said, but “we would want to see a much stronger gain.”
Bradford said there was a three-point gain for the socio-economically disadvantaged.
Much like the rest of the state, Bradford said it‚Äôs a transitional time where the school district is anticipating the new assessment of measuring kids‚Äô growth.
“We are beginning to make these shifts towards common core standards and looking forward to these new assessments that will be challenging and exciting,” Bradford said.