Students top already-high marks

La Cañada's public schools made modest gains on standardized tests, according to a report released Monday by the California Department of Education.

"It's difficult for a district like ours that does so well on these tests to continue to improve, but historically we have, and that's the challenge," said Scott Tracy, vice president of the LCUSD Governing Board. "Obviously, the closer you get to 100%, the more difficult it is to do."

The education department's target for the program is for students to place in the "proficient" or "advanced" levels.

"In LCUSD, the majority of students not only meet the state targets, many students exceeded them," said Lindi Dreibelbis Arthur, the district's director of assessment said in a news release. "A greater percentage of students in LCUSD are performing at the top advanced level than ever before."

Arthur attributed the district's strong performance "to the dedicated teachers, staff and administration, hard-working students and supportive parents and community."

The district's greatest growth this year was at Palm Crest Elementary School, where students outperformed the two other local elementary schools, setting the highest marks in English-language arts. The school also achieved district bests in second- and fourth-grade math and fifth-grade science.

At least 90% of the students at each of the district's three elementary schools met California's math skills target this year, with 98% of Palm Crest's fourth-grade math students scoring above the "basic" skill level.

LCUSD students ranked first, second or third statewide in eight of the 11 math tests given across all grades.

"Overall, our elementary schools have been strong over the years," said school board member Cindy Wilcox. "We are always pleased to see improvement in certain areas where our teachers have been focused and shown improvement."

In 2009, 86% of ninth-graders, 82% of 10th-graders and 77% of 11th-graders met state targets at La Cañada High School in English. This year, 90% of ninth-graders, 84% of 10th-graders and 77% of 11th-graders tested proficient or advanced in their English-language arts skills.

La Cañada High School showed growth in chemistry and physics this year. The 2010 test results showed 76% of students met the target in chemistry, a growth of 22% and placing third-highest in California.

"That's the area that really jumps out at you," Tracy said.

Physics also experienced an 11% jump with 83% of students meeting state goals.

"In high school there are some real areas of strength and others that need more focus," Wilcox said. "Chemistry and physics are two areas the staff had been looking at."

All La Cañada High School math tests showed an increase between 2% and 7%.

"As we gather for the new school year, teachers will continue to work to align their curriculum closely to what students are expected to know in California and beyond," Arthur said.

The 2010 standardized test results can be found at the California Department of Education's website:

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