San Luis Obispo County students once again outperformed their peers on an annual statewide exam, with more than half of the county’s students passing the language arts standards and just under half passing the math standards.
Results released this week for the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress show 54 percent of local students met or exceeded the English language arts and literacy standards in 2016. The math results were slightly lower, with 43 percent meeting or exceeding the standards.
Statewide, that number was 49 percent for English and 37 percent for mathematics.
54 percent San Luis Obispo County students who either met or exceeded English literacy standards.
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For the first time, students in 2015 were tested online rather than with pencil and paper. This was done to provide a more accurate measure of how students perform in those subjects, said state superintendent of public instruction Tom Torlakson. The switch came after California implemented Common Core standards at its schools, which changed the way many students were being taught.
That translated to lower scores than usual as students and teachers adjusted to an entirely new testing system, prompting state officials last year to warn against comparing with previous state testing scores because of the different format.
This year, schools have the baseline set last year to compare scores.
Federal law requires states to test students in third through eighth grades and then again in 11th grade. The new online test asks progressively more difficult questions after students answer correctly.
Among the county’s largest districts, San Luis Coastal Unified School District performed the best. Of the more than 3,840 students tested in that district this year, 65 percent met or exceeded the language arts standards and 59 percent met or exceeded the math standards.
43 percent San Luis Obispo County students who either met or exceeded mathematics standards.
“We’re really lucky to have the best and brightest in our classrooms,” Assistant Superintendent Rick Robinett said Thursday.
Though the district performed well as a whole, Robinett said that there are still improvements to be made, especially among economically disadvantaged students who continue to be outperformed by their more economically advantaged peers.
“There is absolutely still an achievement gap,” he said. “But what we are seeing in our schools with larger populations of those socio-economically disadvantaged students is that gap is narrowing.”
There is absolutely still an achievement gap.
Rick Robinett, San Luis Coastal Unified School District assistant superintendent of personnel, innovation and educational services
That problem isn’t unique to San Luis Coastal — districts across California have long struggled with achievement gaps between students based on economic status, race and ethnicity, English language learner status and disabilities.
What is ‘economically disadvantaged?’ Students who: Qualify for free or reduced cost lunches Are homeless, foster child, migrant family Neither parent graduated from high school
In 2016, 35 percent of those students defined as “economically disadvantaged” met or exceeded the state testing language arts standards and 23 percent met or exceeded the math standards, compared with 68 percent and 56 percent, respectively, for their noneconomically disadvantaged counterparts.
The California Department of Education publishes breakdowns of how different subsets of students perform by county and district. On Thursday, the numbers for how San Luis Coastal’s economically disadvantaged students had performed were not available, pending some alterations to the results, Robinett said.
In San Luis Obispo County, about 43 percent of the 17,850 students tested were defined as economically disadvantaged.
Of those, 37 percent met or exceeded the English standards and 27 percent met or exceeded the math standards, compared with 67 percent and 55 percent, respectively, for their noneconomically disadvantaged counterparts in the county.
For Lucia Mar Unified School District, about 36 percent of its economically disadvantaged students met standards for English and 25 percent for mathematics.
It’s somewhat disheartening to see that proficiency bar, and know we’re not going to hit it
Jim Empey, Lucia Mar Unified School District director of secondary education
The district, which has the largest population of disadvantaged students in the county, has struggled in the past with how best to address the achievement gap.
“It’s somewhat disheartening to see that proficiency bar and know we’re not going to hit it,” said Jim Empey, director of secondary education.
Empey noted that the district as a whole did not perform as well as administrators might have hoped: 50 percent of Lucia Mar students met or exceeded the language arts goals, and only 37 percent met or exceeded the mathematics standards in 2016.
To help combat lower test scores, Empey said the district was the first in the county to implement Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), a tri-annual online-testing system that measures specific student growth using individualized goals.
The major benefit of this form of testing is that it shows student growth over time, Empey said, and gives those students who might appear to be underachieving on once-a-year state tests proof that they are improving, as well as showing teachers specific areas in which students struggle.
Eventually, that reinforcement will help students perform better on state tests like the CAASPP, boosting the district’s scores, Empey said.
Elsewhere in the county, Atascadero Unified saw 53 percent of its students perform to standards in English and 40 percent in math. Paso Robles Joint Unified School District’s numbers were 49 percent in English and 36 percent in math. Templeton Unified posted 61 percent and 47 percent, respectively. And Coast Unified in Cambria scored 59 percent and 43 percent.
Of all the county’s public schools, Teach Elementary recorded the highest proportion of students testing to state standards, with 96 percent meeting or exceeding in English and 95 percent doing so in math.