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TUSD test scores inching higher on state assessments
Osborn elementary
All elementary sites in Turlock Unified School District recorded improvement on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, either in English language arts or mathematics or both (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Students in Turlock and across the state continue to make progress in English language arts and mathematics, according to the recently released California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) summative assessments.  

The computer-based tests use California’s challenging academic standards and ask students to write clearly, think critically and solve complex problems, as they will need to do in college and future careers.

Statewide, in all tested grades, 50.87 percent of students met or exceeded the English language arts standards, a slight increase from last year’s 49.88 percent and 2.31 percentage points higher than in 2016. In mathematics, 39.73 percent of students met or exceeded standards, which is an increase of 1.08 percentage points from 2017.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond acknowledged the slight score increases but expressed deep concern that improvement is less consistent across the score range in the later grades of 7, 8 and 11, with a persistent percentage of students of color not meeting standards and, in several grades, showing declining scores from last year.

“Disparities between students of color and their white and Asian peers continue from year to year and demonstrate the importance of our priority initiative of closing the achievement gap. Education equity should mean equity for all students and right now, we are not there,” said Thurmond. “All students should have an equal opportunity to succeed academically and enter the workforce prepared with the needed skills to compete in the industries that drive our state forward.”

One plan to address disparities that Thurmond supports is working with data experts to interpret the declining scores and evaluate what is causing the results. Strategies can then be identified for how local educational agencies and educators can improve test scores.

“The CDE can work with all educational stakeholders to identify strategies and then explore legislative efforts to support the needs of local districts and provide resources to improve test scores,” Thurmond said.

At the local level, Turlock Unified School District is slightly behind the state test scores for students who met or exceeded standards in both English language arts and mathematics.

“While Turlock Unified School District students have made steady gains over time, the percentage of students meeting and exceeding has been lower than the state. Turlock USD has a diverse student demographic which includes 63 percent economically disadvantaged and 25 percent English learner students. Furthermore, the District has been slightly above county percentages,” said Alice Solis, TUSD’s Director of English Learners, Assessment, and Special Programs.

In English language arts, 45.61 percent of TUSD students met or exceeded the state standard — a slight increase from last year’s 44.92 percent. In mathematics, TUSD students went from 29.60 percent meeting or exceeding state standards in 2017 to 31.44 percent reaching the same level in 2018.

While the District hasn’t made huge gains from year to year, it has steadily increased the number of students who met or exceeded standards over the past five years. In 2014, 40 percent of TUSD students met or exceeded standards in English language arts, compared to 45.61 percent in 2018. In mathematics, 25 percent of all TUSD students tested met or exceeded standards five years ago, compared to 31.44 percent today.

“Turlock USD attributes the steady increase of the number of students who met and exceeded over the past five years to the continued focus on the District’s Initiatives.  These initiatives include teacher collaboration through Professional Learning Communities and targeted professional development.  Additionally, the District’s Instructional Coaching Model provides job-embedded support to students and teachers to increase student learning,” said Solis.

English learners within TUSD fell from 11.15 percent meeting or exceeding English language standards in 2017 to 9.80 percent in 2018, and went from 8.82 percent meeting or exceeding mathematics standards in 2017 to only 8.17 percent in 2017. However, economically disadvantaged students were able to improve scores, with a 0.51 percentage point increase in English language from 2017 to 2018 and a 1.37 increase in math.

All elementary sites in TUSD saw both English and math test scores improve — except for Brown Elementary. While Brown did post a slight increase in the percentage of students who met or exceeded math standards, the school saw a significant decrease in its English language arts scores dropping from 36.10 percent of students who met or exceeded standards in 2017 to 31.97 in 2018.

Cunningham and Julien elementary schools both saw significant increases in both their English language and math scores from 2017 to 2018.

“The District attributes the increases to strong collaborative teacher teams, continued analysis of student data that informs and drives instruction, implementation and fidelity to the adopted curriculum, instructional coaches’ support as well as professional development provided by Stanislaus County Office of Education and outside sources,” said Solis.

Julien Elementary English language arts scores increased from 43.77 percent of students who met or exceeded standards in 2017 to 49.06 in 2018. In math, Julien students increased from 31.60 in 2017 to 38.38 in 2018.

Cunningham recorded a 4.86 percentage point increase in English language arts from 2017 to 2018 and a 7.31 increase in math over the same time period.

While Turlock Junior High School saw increases in its English language and math scores, Dutcher Middle School posted decreases in both subjects. The percentage of Dutcher students who met or exceeded standards went from 50.95 in 2017 to 44.34 in 2018 in English language arts and 32.62 in 2017 to 29.10 in 2018 for mathematics.

Both Turlock High and Pitman High saw decreases in their English language and mathematics scores from last year.

Turlock High’s English language scores fell 5.13 percentage points from 2017 to 2018 and dropped 1.46 points in mathematics. Pitman High saw a 2.72 percentage point decrease in English language arts and a very slight decrease (0.21) in math.

“During 2018-2019 TUSD’s comprehensive high schools were reviewing and piloting English Language Arts curriculum which will align to state standards. Math is an area that has been identified as needing further analysis and review. The District and schools continue collaborative work to improve student outcomes,” said Solis.

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