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TUSD students drop in STAR test scores
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The Turlock Unified School District had a slight drop in core academics, according to the 2013 Standardized Testing and Reporting released by the California Department of Education last Thursday.

The 2013 STAR results show students in the Turlock Unified School District fell behind in English and Math, with less students falling in the proficient to advanced range than last year.

 “Even though a drop in scores is something we don’t want to see happen, we still showed improvement in some areas,” said TUSD Superintendent Sonny DaMarto. “Ninth through 11th grade students showed improvement in the English and language arts category. Our middle school students also improved in algebra.”

The STAR program is divided into four subcategories of tests.  Under the program, California students attain one of five levels of performance on the California Standards Tests, giving an overall view of students’ learning for each subject tested: Advanced, proficient, basic, below basic, and far below basic. 

Student test scores across the state dropped by a fraction of a percent from last year, with fewer students scoring proficient or higher. The drop in test scores is due to ongoing budget reductions and transitioning into Common Core State Standards, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

"As you would expect for a school system in transition, results varied from grade to grade, subject to subject, and school to school, but the big picture is one of remarkable resilience despite the challenges," Torlakson said. "While we all want to see California's progresses continue, these results show that in the midst of change and uncertainty, teachers and schools kept their focus on students and learning. That's a testament to the depth of their commitment to their students and the future of our state."

Approximately 4.7 million students participated in the 2013 STAR program, with 51.2 percent of students scoring proficient and above in math, 0.3 percent lower than last year, and 56.4 percent of students scoring proficient or above in English-language arts, 0.8 percent lower than last year.

"As valuable as STAR has been, we're getting ready to raise the bar in California's schools," Torlakson said. "This coming year, many students will have their first chance to try tests that measure their preparation for college and the world of work. That's a huge challenge for every part of our education system—but one we have to tackle to give every student the opportunity to prepare for a bright future."

In TUSD’s English-language arts category, 52.9 percent of second through 11th graders tested proficient or advanced level, compared to 53.4 percent last year. In Mathematics, of the second through seventh graders tested in the district, 55 percent scored in proficient or advanced range this year, compared to 55.5 percent last year. In History, of the eighth and 11th graders tested in the district, 56 percent scored proficient or advanced this year, compared to 55 percent last year. In Science CST, of the fifth, eighth, and 10th graders tested, 52.7 percent scored proficient or advanced this year, compared to 50.5 last year.

“As we transition to the new Common Core Standards this year, most English and language arts will focus on content-rich and nonfiction literature,” said DaMarto. “This will engage students in critical thinking and analysis and will prepare them for college and beyond.”

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 a  substantial drop in scores in most subjects. In English language arts, 36.9 percent of students tested proficient or advanced compared to 42.1 percent last year. In Math, 37.8 percent of students tested proficient or advanced compared to 51.9 percent last year. In Science, 27 percent of Cunningham students tested proficient or advanced compared to 40 percent last year.

“The STAR exams are only raw scores, it doesn’t really paint a picture,” said DaMarto. “The results from the API and AYP will determine the direction we will need to focus on with our students. Cunningham has made a significant improvement for the past three years and since they took a dip this year, it’s not unusual.”