Statewide testing shows generally strong schools, yet achievement gaps remain

Local schools performed above the county average on annual statewide testing across the board, but administrators can still find room for improvement.

Last spring, students across the state in grades 3-8 and 11 took the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, which measures achievement on Common Core standards.

High schools

In the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District, 79 percent of juniors met or exceeded the English Language Arts statewide standards, down slightly from last year, and 68 percent met the math standards, up slightly from last year. Juniors from the district scored approximately 10 points higher on the English test and roughly 20 points higher on the math test than the county as a whole.

However, Brigitte Sarraf, director of the MVLA accountability and evaluation team, said her pleasure with the generally good scores is countered by a desire to bring the students who are struggling the most up to speed.

Scores for students in the English language development program and special education improved, but there was a 5 percent drop in scores for Latino students.

Sarraf said that when the scores are disaggregated, it’s apparent that Latino students who are not part of the language development program, are from low-income families or are in the special-education program perform just as well as students of other ethnicities.

The achievement gap between Latino students and white students is well documented throughout the county, state and country, but Sarraf said the district is trying hard to close the gap.

“It’s understandable, but it’s not acceptable,” she said of the achievement gap.

Sarraf also noted that while the scores are good, they don’t adequately represent just how good the schools are.

Compared to metrics like the number of Advanced Placement courses, AP scores and the number of students matriculating to four-year colleges, the statewide results don’t compare. However, the statewide testing is a metric that every student is supposed to participate in, not just the highest-achieving students, so it’s a valuable assessment of the schools.

Elementary schools

The Los Altos School District also outperformed the county average, with 87 percent of students meeting or exceeding the standards for English Language Arts and 86 percent meeting or exceeding the Mathematics standards. In both assessments, students exceeded the county averages for students in grades 3-8 by approximately 30 percentage points.

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Sandra McGonagle said there were no surprises in this year’s scores; the district continues to be high-performing, but there continues to be approximately 12 percent of students it struggles to serve. To help those students, the district last year revamped its summer school program to improve literacy. Over the coming months, principals and teachers will examine the individual scores, and results by demographic group and school, and then continue to tweak the curriculum as necessary.

Bullis Charter School

Bullis Charter School continues to post high test scores: 93 percent of students met or exceeded the state standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics.

Superintendent Wanny Hersey said the scores are most useful to her not as a whole, but on an individual level. She said that even if a student stayed within the same broad score bracket but dipped, she wants to check out that student and see what’s going on.

“We do not assume that there’s this one thing that works for every single student,” she said.

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