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Turlock students make progress in state testing

POSTED August 18, 2009 11:40 p.m.
Despite a down turn in educational spending at the state level, Turlock Unified School District students made modest improvements in their English and mathematics skills according to state test results released Tuesday.
The 2009 Standardized Testing and Reporting results released by the California Department of Education show students in the District are making progress in their English and math skills, with more students falling in the proficient to advanced range than last year.
“I am very pleased with our overall performance,” said TUSD Superintendent Sonny Da Marto. “We continue to see small successes that will hopefully build to greater victories for student learning. I commend our teachers, administration and support staff for keeping their focus on student learning and never losing sight of our student focus during these challenging economic times.”
The STAR program is divided into four subcategories of tests, but it is the California Standards Tests that give an overall view of students’ learning. The CSTs are standards-based tests that measure the learning of English language arts, mathematics, science and history/social science. Under the STAR program, California students attain one of five levels of performance on the CSTs for each subject tested: Advanced, proficient, basic, below basic, and far below basic. The State Board of Education has established the proficient level as the desired achievement goal for all students, which is consistent with the federal No Child Left Behind requirements.
This year, 18.8 percent of the TUSD second through eleventh graders tested at the advanced level in English language arts, compared to 17.4 percent last year.
In mathematics, of the second through seventh graders tested in the District, 20 percent scored in the advanced range this year, compared to 18 percent last year.
All together, schools in Stanislaus County made similar gains, and the state average showed progress towards the proficiency level.
“I am pleased and encouraged to see that for the seventh year in a row, California public school students continue to improve,” said State Superintendent Jack O’Connell. “Half of our students are now proficient in English-language arts. This is particularly impressive if you consider that seven years ago, only 35 percent of students met this bar. The improvement trend in mathematics is also impressive, with 46 percent of students now at the proficient or above level.
“California is known nationally for the rigor of our academic standards, and this level of student achievement on our California Standards Tests should be celebrated. It is the result of hard work by teachers, administrators, school support staff, students, and parents,” O’Connell said.
Since last year, the percentage of students at or above the proficient level increased by four points in English language arts and three points in math, according to the California Department of Education.
“And yet, while we applaud these gains in student performance, we must continue to focus on students who struggle in the classroom and help them become skillful readers, able mathematicians, and self-confident, well-prepared leaders of tomorrow,” O’Connell said. “We must also pay particular attention to the fact that a disproportionate share of students who fall below the proficient level are African-American or Latino. This achievement gap represents a loss of opportunity for students of color and remains a real threat to their and California’s future success.”
All subgroups of students continued to improve toward the goal of proficiency, but the gap in achievement between African-American and white students and the gap in achievement between Hispanic/Latino students and white students remained relatively unchanged from 2008 to 2009 in both English language arts and mathematics, according to the test results.
“The number one priority of my office is to close this persistent achievement gap that deprives too many students of color opportunities to succeed in school and in life,” O’Connell said. “We must continue to push our education system to better serve all students. I remain committed to making changes at the state level to support the work being done at the school and district level to close the gap.”
The performance of African-American students and Hispanic students continues to lag behind that of white, Asian, and Filipino students regardless of economic status in most cases, according to the latest results. The 2009 STAR data reveals that the percentage of not economically disadvantaged African-American students (35 percent) achieving the proficient level and above in math is eight percentage points lower than economically disadvantaged white students (43 percent) achieving at the same level. Likewise, the percentage of not economically disadvantaged Hispanic students (41 percent) achieving at high levels in math remains two percentage points lower than that of the economically disadvantaged white students (43 percent). The lone exception to this situation is the percentage of Hispanic students who are not economically disadvantaged scoring proficient or above in English language arts is two percentage points higher than the white students who are economically disadvantaged.
TUSD’s results were similar to those of the state when it comes to the gap between Hispanic/Latino students and whites, African-Americans and Asians. The majority of the students in TUSD are Hispanic/Latino, but they recorded the lowest scores.
For example, at the fifth grade level testing in English language arts, there were 340 white students tested, with 26 percent scoring at the advanced level; 34 African-American students were tested, with 32 percent scoring at the advanced level; 51 Asian students were tested, with 26 percent scoring at the advanced level; and 487 Hispanic/Latino students were tested, with 13 percent scoring in the advanced level.
The differences between economically disadvantaged students and those with no economic disadvantages was even greater. Of the 10, 318 TUSD students tested, 6,315 fall within the category of economic disadvantaged. Of the 642 fifth graders classified as economic disadvantaged, 12 percent scored advanced in mathematics, while 26 percent of the 340 non economic disadvantaged students scored at the advanced level.
To view all the test results visit the California Department of Education Web site at www.cde.ca.gov.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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