Math scores lag behind

High school math scores blemished an otherwise stellar performance by La Cañada students on the California state standardized tests, district officials said Tuesday while dissecting data released last month.

Students logged their worst scores in geometry, with 62% of students meeting or exceeding state targets, said Lindi Dreibelbis Arthur, director of assessment for La Cañada Unified. Algebra II scores were only slightly better, with 63% of students meeting or exceeding state targets. On the general math and high school math tests, La Cañada High School students met or exceeded state targets at rates of 73% and 75%, respectively.

Those numbers stand in stark contrast with La Cañada Unified’s peak performances on tests such as sixth- grade math, where 97% met or exceeded targets, and fourth-grade English language arts, where 94% of students met or exceeded targets.

“Even as we are performing very well, it still troubles me very much that we have [these] kind of math scores,” school board member Joel Peterson said. “In the six, going on seven, years that I have been on the school board, this has been an area that just perennially is a problem.”

Overall, La Cañada Unified remains second best in the state, according to data released on Aug. 31 by the California Department of Education. The district-wide Academic Performance Index score, considered a summation of academic rigor and student performance, this year climbed nine points to 942. La Cañada Unified has held onto the No. 2 ranking since 2008, and now trails No. 1 San Marino by 13 points.

But in a community that prides itself on its elite public schools, middling high school math scores are unacceptable, officials said.

“We can say we are doing great compared to everybody else, but when you look at where are we compared to No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 3 just in math — that is an area that we really need to be focusing on,” school board President Susan Boyd said.

Scores on the state standardized geometry test during the 2010-11 school year dipped 7% as compared to the year before, Dreibelbis Arthur said.

“This is something that teachers will look at in a lot of great detail to determine how we can make adjustments to really improve these geometry scores,” she said.

The district has invested in new software that will allow teachers and administrators to break down testing data in a variety of ways, including by individual student, by class, by school and by district, Dreibelbis Arthur said. The software, called Illuminate, also helps users create easily manageable charts and graphs in order to better assess performance.

The depth and complexity of data, and the time it will take for teachers to dissect it, justifies the board’s decision to authorize four additional teacher collaboration days during teacher contract negotiations earlier this year, board members said.

“I think there is quite a significant amount of substance behind these days,” board Vice President Scott Tracy said.

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