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Local students see another year of progress in state testing
Osborn family reading pic
Osborn Two-Way Academy parent Mayra Gonzalez and her daughter Kenna Cortez, 6, look at a Family Stories project at Osborn in May. Osborn which converted to a two-way (Spanish-English) immersion academy in 2010 saw a big improvement in test scores. - photo by Journal file photo

For the second year in a row, students in the Turlock Unified School District have made strides in core academics, according to state test results released Monday.

The 2010 Standardized Testing and Reporting results released by the California Department of Education show students in the TUSD are making progress in English language arts, history, math and science, with more students falling in the proficient to advanced range than last year.

“We’ve been spending a lot of time on professional development and we’re gradually seeing overall improvement at a lot of our schools,” said TUSD Superintendent Sonny Da Marto. “We still have a long way to go, but we’ll continue to do the same thing. I’m sure it’s rewarding for our teachers to see their hard work pay off.”

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.

Students across the state improved their scores from last year, with a larger proportion than ever scoring proficient or higher.

Approximately 4.7 million students participated in the 2011 STAR program, with 54 percent scoring proficient or above in English language arts and 50 percent scoring at proficient or above in mathematics, the highest percentage since the program's inception in 2003, according to the department of education.

"The significant and sustained improvements we've seen for nine consecutive years prove how hard teachers, school employees, administrators, and parents are working to help students achieve despite budget cuts that have affected our schools," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. "Their heroic teamwork is paying off for California."

In the TUSD, 51.5 percent of second through 11th graders tested at the proficient or advanced level in English language arts, compared to 49.6 percent last year.  In mathematics, of the second through seventh graders tested in the district, 46.9 percent scored in the proficient or advanced range this year, compared to 43.9 percent last year.  In history, of the eighth and 11th graders tested in the district, 50.3 percent scored in the proficient or advanced range this year, compared to 47.6 percent last year.

TUSD scores in science had the largest increase — 45.7 percent in 2010 compared to 50.8 percent in 2011, a jump of 5.1 percent.

An emphasis on science and math proficiency has been made at the state level, as Torlakson hopes to prepare students to succeed in the global economy — something his Transition Advisory Team outlined in the report, “A Blueprint for Great Schools.”

"California had 44,000 more students proficient in its most demanding mathematics test and 147,000 more students testing proficient in biology than just eight years ago," Torlakson said. "That's significant progress, and it shows the enormous potential we have to accomplish even more as we carry out the ‘Blueprint for Great Schools’ and focus on preparing even more students to thrive in our competitive economy."

In an effort to give local students the tools they need to succeed, TUSD has implemented a pilot program in its high school advanced placement chemistry classes. This year, each chemistry student received a netbook computer instead of a textbook.

According to Da Marto, the netbooks contain not only a digital textbook, but also supplementary materials to help the students’ learning process.

Two of the three traditionally lowest-scoring schools in the TUSD made marked improvements in the 2011 STAR test results. Osborn Elementary — which converted to a two-way (Spanish-English) immersion academy in 2010 — saw the biggest improvement in scores.

Forty-one percent of Osborn students tested at proficient or advanced in English language arts in 2011, compared to 33.8 percent in 2010. In math, 55.2 percent tested at proficient or advanced compared to 47.7 percent the year before; and 46.7 percent scored at proficient or advanced in science, compared to 35.8 percent in 2010.

Cunningham Elementary — which underwent a “turnaround” using a modified state model in order to pull the school out of being on the state’s list of lowest-performing schools for the past three years —also saw improvement in test scores for all subjects. The school’s largest increase was in science, with 38.3 percent of students testing at proficient or advanced, compared to 30.3 percent the year before. In English language arts, 36.5 percent tested at proficient or advanced, compared to 34.2 percent in 2010; and in math, 46.5 percent tested at proficient or advanced, compared to 43.5 percent the year before.

While Wakefield Elementary improved its English language arts scores — 34.8 percent of students tested at proficient or advanced in 2011, compared to 32.9 percent in 2010 —the school saw a drop in test scores in both math and science.

In other area districts, Hilmar Unified saw improved scores in all subjects, as did Denair Unified. Chatom, which tested only second through eighth grade students, had mixed results.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.