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Test scores remain stagnant statewide, locally
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After a lengthy delay, the 2017 scores for the online California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress test in English language arts and mathematics were released last week, showing that at both the local and statewide level, students retained progress made during last year’s testing.


This is the third year of the computer-based tests, which use California’s academic standards and ask students to write clearly, think critically and solve complex problems. This year, students throughout California maintained the scores received during the initial year of testing, but little progress was made from last year to this year.


Statewide, in all tested grades, 48.56 percent of students met or exceeded the English language arts standards, a 4.56 percentage points change from 2015, but a small drop from last year’s 49 percent. In mathematics, 37.56 percent of students met or exceeded standards – an increase of 4.56 percentage points from 2015, but a miniscule improvement from 37 percent in 2016.

“I’m pleased we retained our gains, but we have much more work to do. We need to work diligently to narrow achievement gaps and make sure all students continue to make progress,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “It’s important to remember that these tests are far more rigorous and realistic than the previous paper and pencil tests. We are asking more of our students, but for a good reason—so they are better prepared for the world of college and careers.”

Smarter Balanced tests consist of two parts: a computer adaptive assessment and a performance task. The computer assessment bases follow-up questions on a student’s answers in real time and gives a more accurate picture of progress than paper-and-pencil, multiple choice tests. If a student answers a question correctly, they get a more difficult question. If they answer incorrectly, they get an easier question.

The performance task challenges students' ability to apply their knowledge and skills to problems in a real-world setting. The two parts measure depth of understanding, writing, research, and problem-solving skills more thoroughly than the previous multiple-choice paper tests.

At the local level, Turlock Unified School District saw similar results.

Though the 44.35 percent of TUSD students who met or exceed the state standard for English language arts is a 4.35 percent increase from 2015, the scores were just a small jump from last year’s results of 44 percent. In mathematics, TUSD students went from 28 percent meeting or exceeding state standards in 2016 to 28.77 percent reaching the same level in 2017.

“Although we didn’t experience an increase in the percentages of TUSD students who met or exceeded standards this year, we did retain gains made from the previous year,” said TUSD Superintendent Dana Salles Trevethan.

English learners within TUSD fell from 16 percent to 12 percent of students meeting or exceeding state English standards, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students were able to improve English scores by about 1.4 percent.

Trevethan hopes to see scores improve as the District continues to focus on learning cycles, early literacy and a content-based instructional coach model to support student learning.

At elementary school sites throughout TUSD, only two campuses, Walnut Elementary and Cunningham Elementary, saw both English and math test scores improve. Two schools, Dennis Earl Elementary and Wakefield Elementary, suffered drops in both subjects.

Walnut students were able to go from 55 percent meeting or exceeding English state standards in 2016, to now having 60 percent meet or exceed standards. In math, Walnut students jumped nearly six percentage points from 2016 to 2017. Cunningham’s English test scores increased by three percent, going from 25 percent to nearly 28 percent meeting or exceeding standards. Scores in math at Cunningham increased by four percent, with 23 percent of students now meeting or exceeding state standards.

At Dennis Earl, 45 percent of students met or exceeded state standards in 2016, but this year, that number fell to 37 percent. In English testing, scores at Dennis Earl fell three percent. Wakefield Elementary students fell one percent in English testing scores, going from 22 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards down to 21 percent. Twelve percent of Wakefield students met or exceeded standards in 2016, and in 2017, just 10.7 percent were able to meet standards.

Test results continue to be one more piece of the data puzzle that helps guide the District’s work, said Trevethan, helping TUSD staff implement and improve actions that target essential learning for all students. 

Turlock High School made little improvement in English testing, with 60 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards in 2016, and just .3 percent more students meeting the standards in 2017. In Math, THS fell from 35 percent last year to this year only 28.05 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards.

Pitman High School fell 2.6 percent from 2016’s scores, which saw 76 percent of student meet or exceed English state standards. The school’s math scores remained the same at 27 percent.

The case was the same for Denair Unified School District, with scores in both English and math remaining the same from last year. About 32 percent of students met or exceeded English state standards in both 2016 and 2017, and about 13 percent of students met or exceeded math state standards both years as well.

Denair High School fell from 63 percent to 62 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards for English, and went from 23 percent meeting or exceeding state math standards in 2016 to about 18 percent in 2017.

Individual student scores are reported to parents by mail. In addition, California provides a dedicated CAASPP Results Web site, where parents and the public can view and compare aggregated results among schools, districts, and counties along with statewide results.

To view broken down test results by county, district, and schools across the state, visit