Students in the San Ramon Valley are continuing to excel on standardized tests, according to results released by the state Department of Education. San Ramon Valley Unified scores slipped slightly in 2013, following a statewide trend, but continue to show high levels of proficiency and advanced skills.
Nearly 24,000 students in grades 2-11 participated in the 2013 STAR program, approximately 680 more students than in 2012. Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, said the dip in scores was a result of schools dealing with ongoing budget cuts and the transition to the Common Core State Standards.
"As our district continues to grow and our demographics change, we remain committed to our goal of each student reaching proficiency and being well-prepared for the world that awaits them," said SRVUSD Superintendent Mary Shelton.
Although SRVUSD saw a slight decline in the overall percentage of students performing at the proficient or advanced levels in English-language arts (ELA), math and end-of-course science exams, the decline is consistent with Contra Costa County and the State. SRVUSD's proficient and advanced scores are approximately 26 percent higher than the county average and 33 percent higher than the statewide average, a release stated.
"I think, in general, when it comes to test scores, as you continue to grow and change as a district and as a community, it's difficult to maintain a high level of performance, but we've been able to do that," said district spokesman Terry Koehne.
Approximately 85 percent of students in the San Ramon Valley scored "proficient" or "advanced" in English-language arts exams, a 1.3 percent drop from the previous year. The majority of each grade level scored as advanced, with fourth graders leading at 70 percent.
Statewide, 56.4 percent of students scored proficient or above, 0.8 percent lower than 2012.
Mathematics scores dipped a percentage point this year, with 78.5 percent of students in the district scoring proficient or advanced. The majority of students tested in mathematics were proficient, with fourth graders again showing the most high scores at 75 percent advanced.
Statewide, 51.2 percent of students posted a score of proficient and above in mathematics, which was 0.3 of a percentage point lower than last year.
"Often times...a particular grade level just really shines," Koehne said of fourth grade successes. "I think, a lot of times, it just depends on the year and the group of students. We typically see if there's a pattern in the group of students, or if we're seeing the pattern at fourth grade every year because that says something different."
Eighty percent of students scored highly in history/social science with 88.3 percent scoring proficient or advanced in science in grades 5, 8 and 10. Seventy-eight percent scored proficient or advanced in science end-of-course exams in grades 9-11.
Mathematics proficient and advanced scores declined as grade level increased, following a trend of several years. Koehne said the lower scores in high school are a universal concept that is partially due to increased pressure to perform.
"There's just so many other pressures that high schools kids go through, and they're tested a lot...to add that additional layer on of standardized tests can be stressful," Koehne said. " You see that across the board, across the state. We try to look at maintaining that high level and again looking at those subgroups to say what can we do as a district, as a school, as a grade level to look at those kids who may be under performing."
San Ramon Valley Unified also spends a lot of time looking at subgroup data to "narrow the achievement gap," Koehne said.
"We literally break it down student by student. What helps us to improve and stay at a high level is to really look at the individual student, who their teacher is, what other support might exist for that particular student, and figure out ways to improve instruction and personalize support," he said.
In mathematics statewide, the percentage of Asian students scoring proficient and above increased by 1 percentage point to 78 percent; in SRVUSD between Asian students averaged between 80 and 95 percent proficient or above across math levels. Asian students averaged 90 percent proficient or above in English-language arts, compared to the stage average of 78 percent.
The majority of Latino students in SRVUSD scored proficient or basic in mathematics -- 47.7 percent compared to the state average of 42 percent. Sixty-four percent of Latino or Hispanic students in the district scored proficient or advanced in ELA, above the state average of 45 percent.
Sixty-four percent of Black or African-American students within the district scored proficient or above in ELA, compared to the state average of 43 percent. Mathematics grades exceeded the state average of 35 percent with 46.1 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced.
Under the STAR program, California students attain one of five levels of performance 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. Proficient students demonstrate a "competent and adequate understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by the assessment at a particular grade, in a particular content area."
Approximately 4.7 million California students participated in the 2013 STAR program, which consists of the following exams:
- California standards tests (CSTs): standards-based tests that measure the achievement of state content standards for English/language arts, mathematics, science and history/social science.
- California modified assessment (CMA): designed for students with disabilities whose individualized education program team determines that the CMA is appropriate and who meet state Board of Education-adopted eligibility criteria. The CMA is designed to provide students an accessible assessment of their achievement of the California content standards.
- California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA): for students who have significant cognitive disabilities and assess them in the content areas of English/language arts, mathematics and science.
- Standards-based Tests in Spanish (STS): for Spanish-speaking, English learner students who either receive instruction in Spanish or have been enrolled in a school in the United States for less than 12 months. The STS assesses these students in reading/language arts and mathematics. Students who complete the STS also complete the CST and/or CMA for their grade level.
Superintendent Torlakson noted that with large-scale field testing of new computer-based assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards proposed for the coming school year, this year's results likely mark the last use of the STAR program statewide.
"As valuable as STAR has been, we're getting ready to raise the bar in California's schools," Torlakson said. "This coming year, many students will have their first chance to try tests that measure their preparation for college and the world of work. That's a huge challenge for every part of our education system but one we have to tackle to give every student the opportunity to prepare for a bright future."