San Luis Obispo County students continue to progress on standardized tests in math and English — remaining above the statewide average scores in those subjects.
Of the 26,055 students tested, more than half scored proficient or advanced in both subjects, according to data released this week by the state Department of Education.
County students have consistently improved on the tests since they were aligned to state standards nine years ago.
“The data show that over time there has been steady improvement,” said county schools Superintendent Julian Crocker. “The trend here is up — one of steady growth. There are not significant gains from one year to the next, but it is certainly significant improvement.”
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Students are tested in four areas: math, English and language arts, science, and history and social science.The state divides the results into five categories: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic. The state Board of Education has marked proficient as the desired achievement goal for all students.
A proficient score is equal to a solid “B” grade. Countywide, 61 percent of students who took the California Standards Tests scored “proficient” or “advanced” in English and language arts. That score is 7 percentage points higher than that of their statewide peers. And 55 percent of tested students countywide were at the same levels in math. That score is 5 percentage points higher than that of students statewide.
An assessment from 2008 to 2011 of math and English scores of fourth- through sixth-graders done by the county Office of Education shows major gains at those grade levels, Crocker said.
For example, the county’s fifth-grade math scores increased to 66 percent from 55 percent in that four-year period.
“That is very good news because we know that many students decide if they feel competent in math and science while in the upper elementary grades,” Crocker said. “It portends to more students moving into math and science careers.” English scores likewise increased in those grade levels year-over-year.
Throughout the county, however, districts continue to struggle with English-language learners and students of lower socioeconomic status, who consistently test below the county and state averages.
“We have seen a slight narrowing of the gap, but it is still there,” Crocker said.
He said that despite steep budget cuts that have affected most districts in San Luis Obispo County, the scores remain on the rise because of “tremendous work that teachers continue to do with less help.”
Crocker cautioned that the impacts of the budget cuts are being felt in areas that aren’t demonstrated by the test results.
“You can just concentrate on one area and get these results, but what is lost in the process because of the financial impact are things that are not shown in test scores,” said Crocker, referring to art, music, critical thinking and social skills.
“That is the other part of a child’s education that is getting neglected, and we don’t test that because there isn’t a way to do so efficiently.”
Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.