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State test scores show slow but steady gains among area schools

State test scores show slow but steady gains among area schools
Riley Russo, left, and her twin sister, Cameron, along with Dylan Brashier and Charlie Besso, right, work on solving a problem during a pre-algebra class at Laguna Beach's Thurston Middle School in 2013. (File Photo)

Students’ performance on standardized state tests held generally steady from last year in coastal Orange County, according to scores released this week by the California Department of Education.

The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) was administered in the spring to more than 3 million students in grades 3 to 8 and 11. It is a computer-adaptive assessment that bases follow-up questions on students’ answers in real time.

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State scores went up about 1% in both English and math, and most local school districts saw similar changes. As has been the case since the test was first released in 2015, Orange County school districts outshone state averages by roughly 10% in both subjects, though results vary across individual districts.

Scores are categorized in one of four achievement levels — standard exceeded, met, nearly met and not met. For this article, the percentiles of “exceeded” and “met” are combined as the schools’ passing rates.

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In the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, about 60% of students passed state standards in English and about 51% in math, compared with the state’s 50% and 39%, respectively.

According to Newport-Mesa, all elementary school grades experienced growth in English, with third, fourth and seventh grades showing the most significant increases.

“While we are never satisfied until all students meet proficiency standards, we are pleased to see continuous growth overall, particularly in the first year of implementation of two new adoptions at the elementary level,” said Russell Lee-Sung, Newport-Mesa deputy superintendent.

The Huntington Beach Union High School District was the only area district to show any notable decrease in scores, although it was still well above the state average. In English, 72% of the district’s students passed, about a 7% drop from 2017. Math scores recorded about a 3% drop, with 50% passing.

“The CAASPP is only one metric that the HBUHSD uses to evaluate academic progress. For example, we also use graduation rates and A-G completion rates,” said Owen Crosby, district assistant superintendent of educational services. “Our work is making sure that each student gets what they need in order to succeed academically and that they are also socially and emotionally healthy.”

Similarly, Newport-Mesa officials said the assessments “do not provide a holistic view of student achievement,” and they cited the California School Dashboard — the state’s new school ranking system revealed last year — as a more multifaceted grader. In addition to academics, the dashboard factors in graduation and suspension rates, absenteeism, college and career readiness and parent engagement.

The Fountain Valley School District saw the greatest growth in math among local districts, though still slight. About 73% of students passed math standards, up almost 3% from 2017. English scores were nearly the same as last year, with 75% of students passing.

“Our students have grown significantly from the first administration of this assessment in 2015 to the current one,” said Steve McLaughlin, the district’s assistant superintendent of educational services. He said the district has experienced gains of 6% in English and 10% in math since the test’s debut.

In the Ocean View School District, 64% passed English and 57% passed math.

Scores in the Huntington Beach City School District were nearly identical to last year’s, with 75% passing English and 69% passing math.

“We are very proud of our students’ performance and find that they often score higher on the CAASPP than they do on our internal assessments given the high quality and cognitive demand of these rigorous local assessments,” said Jennifer Shepard, Huntington Beach City’s assistant superintendent of educational services.

The Laguna Beach Unified School District had the highest scores among the districts in the Orange Coast area, with 82% of students passing English and 74% passing math.

According to Laguna Beach Unified officials, the district’s scores have risen 6% in English and 8% in math since 2015.

“This level of academic excellence and growth across four years speaks volumes about the dedication and efforts of our students, teachers and instructional leaders,” said Chad Maberey, district director of assessment and accountability.

Laguna Beach Unified Supt. Jason Viloria said the district has renewed its focus on the importance of developing “meaningful relationships” to continue improving individual students’ scores.

For more information about CAASPP scores, visit caaspp.cde.ca.gov.

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