STAR Test Scores Released By State, Local Schools Shine
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell today released the results of the 2010 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program that show California students overall continue to make steady academic progress in English-language arts, mathematics, science, and history-social science.
The 2010 STAR results may be found on the California Department of Education (CDE) Web page here.
Students in the Santa Clarita Valley scored significantly higher than the statewide average in all areas.
Of the 4,745.232 students tested statewide, the statewide average percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced in the following categories is listed in bold, with local district scores listed below. A dash following the district name means that the specific test was not given.
English Language Arts (grades 2-11) 49
- Castaic District 67.4
- Hart District 66.2
- Newhall District 76.2
- Saugus District 70.8
- Sulphur Springs 63.2
- Mission View 29.0
- Santa Clarita Int’l 62.3
History (grades 8 and 11) 41.0
- Castaic District 64.4
- Hart District 58.7
- Newhall District -
- Saugus District -
- Sulphur Springs -
- Mission View 17.1
- Santa Clarita Int’l 55.6
Mathematics (grades 2-7) 45.8
- Castaic District 64.0
- Hart District 53.9
- Newhall District 80.9
- Saugus District 72.7
- Sulphur Springs 63.8
- Mission View 7.9
- Santa Clarita Int’l 50.2
Science CST (grades 5, 8 and 10) 49.5
- Castaic District 75.2
- Hart District 70.4
- Newhall District 78.5
- Saugus District 71.2
- Sulphur Springs 71.1
- Mission View 27.3
- Santa Clarita Int’l 72.9
Science End of Course 36.0
- Castaic District -
- Hart District 57.8
- Newhall District -
- Saugus District –
- Sulphur Springs -
- Mission View 11.7
- Santa Clarita Int’l -
“For the eighth consecutive year, California’s public school student performance has improved,” O’Connell said. “Even as schools struggle with the ongoing state fiscal crisis, it is impressive that we are seeing sustained growth in proficiency. California’s standards are among the most rigorous in the nation. I am pleased that more than half of our students are proficient or advanced in English-language arts and nearly half are Proficient or Advanced in mathematics. This is a significant gain since we first started measuring student progress on tests fully aligned to our standards eight years ago, and a testament to the hard work of our students, teachers, parents, school administrators, and other school staff.”
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Administrators at the William S. Hart District were pretty happy with their progress as well, besting the state average by a sizeable percentage, where standardized test scores increased in almost every curricular area and at almost every grade level.
“Even when our numbers stay the same, they are already impressive, especially compared to county and state scores,” noted Dave LeBarron, director of curriculum and assessment for the Hart District. The tests, taken last spring, measure student proficiency in the standards—things students are expected to master at each grade level.
Student scores fall into five levels, ranging from far below basic to below basic, basic, proficient and advanced. The goal is to increase the percentage of students scoring proficient and above, while decreasing the percentage of students who fall below basic. LeBarron noted that state and federal rankings place more emphasis on the number of students who move up to basic, rather than the number who move from basic to proficient and above.
In English/language arts, every grade level showed marked improvement except seventh grade, which remained the same. The most impressive gains were at Golden Valley High School, which saw an increase of 13 percent in ninth grade and 12 percent in 11th grade.
In seventh grade math, the number of students scoring proficient and above increased by three percent district-wide, with almost every school showing growth. Eighth grade math scores were more difficult to compare, since the district’s junior high schools are channeling more students into algebra instead of the generic eighth grade math. Algebra and eighth grade math scores dipped, as students who would have excelled in eighth grade math were pushed into algebra, where it was more difficult for them to achieve proficient-level scores.
“Our goal is not to get better scores on the California Standardized Test (CST),” LeBarron explained. “Our goal is to be sure that our students are being challenged to their highest ability level.” He added that students at the high school level are doing very well in geometry, Algebra II and summative math.
In science, where students take the test which reflects the subjects they are studying at test time, the number of students testing at proficient and above increased in every subject area except eighth grade science, where there was no change. The highest growth came in physics, which showed a 10 percent increase in students scoring proficient and above, and in earth science, with an eight percent increase.
Students taking biology and chemistry also showed modest increases.
Test scores are also reported by subgroups, such as ethnicities, English learners, economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities.
All ethnic groups performed as well as last year, with students of all ethnicities reducing the percentage of students scoring below basic and increasing the number scoring proficient and above. Hispanics gained at every grade level except eighth, where they remained the same and white students increased by five percentage points. Hispanic students made the greatest gains in seventh and ninth grades, increasing 16 percent and 12 percent, respectively, in English/language arts.
English learners showed some loss in test performance, but year-to-year comparisons are difficult due to the small number of students involved. English learners did show some success in ninth grade.
Students who are economically disadvantaged neither lost nor gained at the junior high school level, but increased across the board in high school. Growth was especially significant in the ninth grade, where 11 percent of student scores increased.
Students with disabilities increased their scores at every level in grades seven through 10, and the number of students scoring below basic decreased in high school. The subgroup showed a small increase at the junior high school level.
“Hart District students do very well on the STAR tests because we have a very strong focus on the standards, and the test focuses on the standards,” LeBarron continued. “Every school has a professional development program that is based on research-based programs at both the high school and junior high levels.”
Results of the STAR program are crucial in determining the Academic Performance Index, which the state will release at the end of the month. “API is a growth model,” LeBarron explained. “Schools will be rewarded for growing, regardless of where they started.”
The federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) score, which also will be released at the end of August, relies on STAR scores at the junior high school level and performance on the California High School Exit Exam at the high school level, among other measures.
The importance of STAR test results goes well beyond the state and federal “report cards,” however. Every school in the Hart District will be looking at its test data, examining curricular areas, grade levels and subgroups.
“The true purpose of a test is to give us information we can use,” LeBarron continued. “We need to analyze the results and see where we did well and where we can do better. Every school is doing that.”
He noted that the STAR scores are just one piece of the assessment picture, but the piece that is the largest for the public. “We take it very seriously,” he said. “We use it to drive our program design.”
“Overall, across the board there is improvement at every level,” LeBarron said. “Either the school improved or stayed the same, which is a result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people. We saw a lot more junior high students taking algebra this year. Ethnic groups made improvements in English language. More students scored proficient and advanced than ever before and the bubble on the top got bigger.”
LeBarron said that the district’s focus on standards education helped, citing quarterly benchmark assessments that give teachers an idea how their students are doing and identifying those who may need some help.
Schools have to show improvement, it’s not a pass or fail,” he said. “And it’s not just the school, it’s the subgroups within the district, they have to grow from year to year.”
“We get the biggest bang for our buck when we move students up from the bottom,” he continued. “You get much more value for that improvement. There’s never a time when you reach the pinnacle; the challenge always renews itself.”
In the eight years since all California Standards Tests (CSTs) were completely aligned to state standards, the percentage of students scoring at the Proficient or Advanced level increased by 17 points in English-language arts (ELA) or from 35 percent to 52 percent, (Table 1) and 13 points in mathematics, from 35 percent to 48 percent (Table 6).
Since 2003, 731,133 additional California students have reached Proficient or Advanced levels in English-language arts and 586,765 more students have attained the same levels in math.
Since last year, the percentage of students at or above the proficient level increased by 2 points in ELA and 2 points in math (Tables 1 and 6 respectively).
“The growth in achievement is evident among every subgroup of students,” O’Connell continued. “However, we must continue to pay close attention to the achievement gap that shows students of color and poverty are trailing behind their peers. My administration has focused on closing the achievement gap, and I am pleased to see that among Latino students the gap has narrowed since last year. I remain concerned that we are not seeing similar narrowing trends among African American students and students of poverty. We must continue to seek and implement strategies that can help accelerate gains toward proficiency needed to narrow this academic chasm.”
O’Connell noted that a recent report conducted by McKinsey & Company found a significant economic impact of the achievement gap. The report stated that if the United States had closed the gap between black and Hispanic/Latino student performance and white student performance had been similarly narrowed in the United States, the country’s gross domestic product in 2008 would have been between $310 billion and $525 billion higher.
The STAR results show that the gap in achievement between African American and white students remained relatively unchanged from 2009 to 2010 in both ELA and mathematics, while the gap in achievement between Hispanic/Latino students and white students narrowed slightly (Tables 16 and 17).
When all eight years of California Standards Tests results are measured, the achievement gap narrows by 4 percentage points between Hispanic/Latino students and their white counterparts in both ELA and mathematics. Over the same time period, the gap between African American students and their white counterparts narrowed by just one percentage point in both math and in English-language arts.
O’Connell pointed to two initiatives that he has championed that are targeted at improving student achievement and closing the achievement gap. The first is California’s recent adoption of the Common Core state standards.
“The Common Core standards have been internationally benchmarked, are research based, and are unequivocally rigorous,” O’Connell said. “They are designed to be relevant to the real world, and reflect the knowledge and skills that students need for success in college and career in the competitive global economy of the 21st century. The improvement to our standards through adoption of the Common Core and the thoughtful implementation of aligned instructional materials and professional development programs for teachers are key components in our efforts to close the achievement gap.”
O’Connell also cited the recent release of an important new tool to improve the instruction of English learners: Improving Education for English Learners: Research-Based Approaches. The resource offers a comprehensive analysis of recent research to inform and improve instructional practices in order to help students who are learning English. It is designed to help accelerate progress among English learners, which comprise a quarter of California’s kindergarten through grade twelve population. O’Connell has asked his staff to provide technical assistance to educators in the field as they implement the researched-based practices identified in the book.
Under the STAR program, California students attain one of five levels of performance on the CSTs for each subject tested: Advanced, Proficient, Basic, Below Basic, and Far Below Basic. The State Board of Education has established the Proficient level as the desired achievement goal for all students. The Proficient level represents a solid performance. Students demonstrate a competent and adequate understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this assessment, at this grade, in this content area. This goal is consistent with school growth targets for state accountability and the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act requirements. The state target is for all students to score at the Proficient or Advanced levels.
Approximately 4.73 million students participated in the 2010 STAR program.
The STAR program is comprised of the following exams:
• California Standards Tests (CSTs) are standards-based tests that measure the achievement of state content standards in English-language arts, mathematics, science, and history-social science.
• The California Modified Assessment (CMA) is designed for students with disabilities whose individualized education program (IEP) team determines that the CMA is appropriate. The CMA is designed for students with disabilities whose IEP team determines that the CMA is appropriate. Students must also meet State Board of Education-adopted eligibility criteria. The CMA is designed to provide eligible students an accessible assessment to California content standards.
• The California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) is for students who have significant cognitive disabilities.
• Standards-based Tests in Spanish (STS) are for students who either received instruction in Spanish or were enrolled in a school in the United States for less than 12 months. Students who completed the STS also completed the grade-level CST and/or CMA. Results from the STS are not included in state or federal accountability reports.