The local Board of Education already reviewed data on how Santa Monica-Malibu students fared on new state tests and how their success rates varied along racial lines, a subject of particular concern as officials work to address longstanding achievement gaps.

But this month the school board took a deeper dive into the statistics, which reveal major discrepancies across school sites in the district.

Officials have said the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress exams, which are administered to students in grades 3-8 and 11, are fundamentally different in how they evaluate student knowledge. Emphasizing critical-thinking and problem-solving skills over memorization and guessing, the Smarter Balanced assessments are aligned with Common Core standards.

About 68 percent of SMMUSD students who took the new tests met or exceeded standards in English and 57 percent met or exceeded standards for math, according to state data. Those numbers compare favorably to the 44 percent of California students who met or exceeded English standards and the 34 percent who met or exceeded math standards.

Officials expect scores to rise in the future as students grow more accustomed to the tests and as teachers align instruction to state standards.

District leaders are now tasked with identifying the practices that have the greatest impacts on improvement and helping teachers implement them. They are particularly interested in finding ways to help African-American and Latino students as well as English learners and students with special needs.

‘Bright spots’

SMMUSD officials noticed several “bright spots,” which scholar and education consultant Pedro Noguera has said could help the district develop strategies to reduce achievement gaps.

At Webster Elementary School in Malibu, for example, pass rates topped 66 percent for English and math in grades 3-5, and many more students were close to the standard. At Edison Language Academy, the district’s dual-immersion site, at least 86 percent of students were near, at or above English standards in grades 3-5.

But performance varied greatly at the district’s elementary campuses, data shows.

Pass rates in English ranged from as high as 89 percent at Franklin and 81 percent at Roosevelt to just 44 percent at John Muir and 52 percent at Will Rogers.

Meanwhile, 86 percent of Franklin test-takers and 79 percent of Roosevelt test-takers met or exceeded the benchmark standard in math, while those figures sagged significantly at John Muir (32 percent) and Will Rogers (37 percent).

Secondary schools

Success rates were slightly higher overall at the district’s middle and high schools, but SMMUSD officials will likely have to address non-participation as a potential issue.

Eighty-three percent of test-takers in grades 6-8 at Santa Monica Alternative School House met or exceeded the standard in English, 76 percent passed at Malibu High School and 73 percent tested at or above standard at both Lincoln and Malibu middle schools. The pass rate in English at Santa Monica High School, though, was just 47 percent.

Pass rates for math at the secondary schools were highest at Lincoln (63 percent), SMASH (62 percent) and Malibu Middle School (61 percent). The numbers fell to 42 percent for Samohi and 41 percent for John Adams Middle School.

At Olympic High School, the district’s continuation campus, the pass rate for English was just 5 percent. None of the school’s test-takers passed the math portion of the exam, according to the data.

Non-participation rates were particularly high at Olympic for both English (40 percent) and math (19 percent).

Samohi juniors opted out of the English portion of the exam at a rate of 21 percent, a figure that climbed to 34 percent among black students. The school’s non-participation rate in math was 10 percent.

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