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Latest school test results are mixed bag

Submitted by on 1, September 16, 2009 – 5:50 amNo Comment

Alameda’s students are doing better on state performance tests, but not good enough to meet all of Alameda Unified’s federally mandated performance goals, test results released Tuesday show.

Nearly all of the district’s schools saw their students’ scores on the 2008-09 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) tests increased from the previous year, and all of the subgroups of the student population – which include different races and ethnicities, English learners, disabled students and socioeconomically disadvantaged students – did better on the tests than they did in 2007-08.

But the district failed to meet proficiency targets in English Language Arts and math for its African American and Latino students, and it also failed to meet all of its test score progress targets in some of its schools.

“We were good in some areas. But then we see some areas where we got challenged again,” Interim Assistant Superintendent Ruben Zepeda said of the results. He noted that Chipman and Wood middle school and Washington and Paden elementary schools saw gains in their math scores, an area where the district has struggled.

Zepeda praised the district’s teachers and students for doing an “outstanding job” of meeting state testing and proficiency standards. But he said the district is still facing challenges in meeting the needs of certain groups of students, particularly African Americans, Latinos and special education students.

Forty-five percent of the district’s students – and of each of the listed subgroups – and 45.5 percent of the students in those same groups were required to be proficient in math and English Language Arts last year. But African Americans and students with disabilities fell below that mark in both categories, and Latinos an Native Americans missed the mark in math.

Franklin Elementary and the Alameda Science and Technology Institute each saw their API score drop by five points, to 893 and 844, while the Alameda Community Learning Center’s score dropped 39 points to 826.

But 10 of the district’s schools saw double-digit score increases, and nearly all of the district’s elementary schools had scores of 800 or higher, which is considered excellent. The district’s overall API score was 823, 13 points higher than last year.

The district’s Latino students drew the biggest gain in scores,which jumped 31 points to 743. English learners and students with disabilities also gained points on the tests, scoring 779 and 613 respectively.

Still, the improved scores weren’t enough to meet all of the demands of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which requires that schools and all of their distinct population subgroups meet proficiency and growth standards. Only one school in the district, Wood Middle School, failed to meet its growth target schoolwide, while several others failed to meet the targets for certain subgroups.

The staff at Chipman Middle School – which has failed to meet all of its testing goals for the past four years – is working to turn the school into a charter, one of the options schools that continually fail to meet progress targets and are placed in “program improvement” status are allowed under federal law. Wood was expected to be placed in “program improvement” this year, but was not.

Only schools that receive Title 1 funding – schools where a high percentage of students come from low-income families – are considered for program improvement, though school districts can also be placed in the program. Henry Haight, Ruby Bridges, Washington, Chipman and Wood schools all receive Title 1 funding.

The district’s graduation rate, while rated sufficient by the state, fell nearly seven percentage points, from 90.6 percent in 2007-08 to 83.9 percent in 2008-09. But Zepeda said the drop could be due to changes in the way the state tracks graduates.

In a September 8 presentation on the achievement gap between different groups, Zepeda said fewer African American and Latino students are enrolling in advanced math classes than those of other races and ethnicities, and fewer still achieve early proficiency in the classes. The result, he said, was that these students would receive less high-level math than they might need to get into the best colleges and universities.

The school board approved a new math curriculum for this school year and the district has also hired trainers to work with teachers in an effort to close the achievement gap. The district has also pushed “categorical” money targeted to specific school programs to individual schools so that staff at the schools can spend it the way they need it.

The test scores, incidentally, are here.

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