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Student test scores fall short, once again

Student test scores fall short, once again

Students in Mrs. Leigh's sixth grade class at Dennis Earl Elementary School answer questions during a class debate on Friday. Dennis Earl had the third highest API score out of all elementary schoo...


POSTED October 9, 2009 10:34 p.m.

For the third year in a row, the Turlock Unified School District has not met state test score expectations and is once again been categorized as a program improvement district.
Every year the district must meet state standards with reaching their Academic Progress Index and meet their Annual Yearly Progress targets, said Laurie Harrington, director of assessment and accountability for TUSD. In 2009, TUSD as a district fell short.  
“We are a lot better off than other districts,” said Tami Muniz, TUSD trustee.  “Some sites have scores to celebrate, but we still need to keep striving to meet our requirements.”  
API scores are a way to measure each school’s test scores from the California Standardized Tests that students must take every year, Harrington said. API scores run from 200 to 1,000 and the state requires each school to get a score of 800 or higher. API scores are also a way for community members to rank schools and see where each school stands based on their test scores.  
AYP targets for each district and school are known as annual measurable objectives. They are a way to reach the overall goal of making 100 percent of each school and district proficient in their test scores for the California Standardized Tests, Harrington said.  
Federal requirements to meet AYP is based on percentages that rise every year to meet the goal of 100 percent by the school year 2013/2014. AYP targets are split between significant subgroups such as English learners, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and students with disabilities.  
“It is difficult to have 80 percent of our schools proficient because there are always going to be kids where something isn’t working well,” said Lauren Holt, TUSD trustee. “The most important thing is that we are making progress.”  
As a district, TUSD is meeting their AYP goals, but their significant subgroups are not making AYP which puts the district into program improvement for the third consecutive year, Harrington said. All groups must meet AYP to be out of program improvement.  
“We still have lots of work to do from the board to the classrooms to meet our targets,” said Frank Lima, TUSD trustee.  
Federal requirements for AYP targets started in 2004/2005 at 23.7 percent of students to be at or above proficient level for math and 23 percent of students to be proficient in English language arts, Harrington said.  
Each year, the required percentage of proficient students goes up about 11 percent. If a school or the district does not meet AYP for two consecutive years, they enter into program improvement.     
When a school or district is in program improvement, federal requirements assign protocols for each year to be taken on to help improve the school or district, Harrington said. Last year, the district took on protocols for year three of program improvement although they were only in year two of program improvement.  
“Our district was being proactive and volunteered to add more protocols to be prepared for the next year,” Harrington said.  
To get out of program improvement, the district must go into safe harbor for two consecutive years, Harrington said. To get into safe harbor the district must increase the proficient percentage by 10 percent of the below proficient students. They  must also have 95 percent of participation in the tests, which Turlock has almost 100 percent participation every year; increase their API growth by one point; and meet graduation rates criteria. Once the district or school is in safe harbor for two consecutive years, they are out of program improvement, she said.   
When the API and AYP scores come out every year, it states the schools on program improvement and the schools that are in danger of program improvement, Harrington said. If a school does not meet one AYP for one subgroup they are in danger of program improvement. They  must meet all AYP scores for each subgroup and together as a whole.  
Even though TUSD is on program improvement as a district, and four schools within the district are on program improvement, the results of API and AYP scores are slowly improving just not as much as the state and federal government would like them to.            
“Our trend is heading in the right direction and that is nothing short of extraordinary,” said John Sims, TUSD trustee.  
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015. 

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