La Cañada Unified students are largely demonstrating proficiency in all subjects, with a few minor declines in certain areas and among individual grade levels, according to results of the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) assessments released last week by the California Department of Education.
The tests break down student performance across 31 subjects and/or grade levels, ranking them in five proficiency levels from far below basic to advanced. The statewide standard is for all students to reach proficient or advanced levels.
Compared to other school districts throughout the state, La Cañada Unified maintains its status as a top-performing district, ranking third with 89.9% of students in grades 2 through 11 scoring proficient or advanced in English language arts, according to LCUSD Director of Assessment Lindi Dreibelbis. The statewide average is just 56.4%.
“I was very proud that we maintained very high results,” Dreibelbis said. “We’re at such a high level of growth, it’s becoming more and more challenging to improve.”
Local rankings in math showed some small improvements and some declines. For example, 97% of fifth-graders made the cut, compared to 90% last year, while seventh-graders slipped from 94% proficiency last year to 89% this year. Third-graders at Palm Crest Elementary School and second-graders at La Cañada Elementary School were 100% proficient in math.
“The fact that we continue to see these outstanding and comprehensive outcomes is a testament to our students' dedication to academic excellence, to the absolute quality of their teachers' instructional practice and to the on-going support and involvement of our parent community,” Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said in a release issued Tuesday.
In higher-level math classes, students taking algebra I reached 92% proficiency, the same as last year, while geometry students rose six percentage points from last year to reach 81% proficiency.
Algebra II students have not progressed much since 2011, with just 64% of students scoring at proficient or advanced levels, down a percentage point from last year.
One promising trend in La Cañada Unified’s STAR results is the increasing number of students taking math courses at higher grade levels and testing at advanced levels.
For example, the number of seventh-graders testing in algebra I nearly doubled from 11 last year to 19 this year, scoring 100% advanced. The 12 eighth-graders who tested in geometry also reached a 100% advanced level.
The total number of high school freshman taking algebra II climbed from 26 to 42. About 88% of those students tested as proficient or advanced, compared to 76% of sophomores and only 13% of juniors enrolled in algebra II.
Governing Board President Scott Tracy said that while he couldn’t directly account for why more students are performing above their own grade level, he said the district has made a concerted effort to identify advanced students and place them accordingly.
“Where we have students who are ready, capable and willing, we’re going to feed them, and we’re seeing the results now,” Tracy said.
STAR results are a big factor in determining a school or district’s Academic Performance Index (API), the gold standard for measuring success in California classrooms. Despite the eminence given to the measurement, STAR will sunset next year as the state adopts new Common Core content standards, which will include entirely new methods of measuring academic performance.
Districts don’t know what the new tests will entail, Dreibelbis said, adding that the state Board of Education plans to address the matter at an upcoming meeting this fall. Whatever the changes will mean, officials are confident La Cañada schools will continue to thrive.
“We’re very fortunate that we have some great teachers, we have a supportive community, great kids and families who care — it’s just a great recipe,” Tracy said.