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Tuesday, Aug 27 2013 06:00 AM

TUSD STAR test scores some schools are down

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For the second year in a row, students in the Tehachapi Unified School District performed slightly better than their Kern County cohorts on the annual Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR assessments for the 2013 school year.

In Tehachapi, students posted a score of proficient or above, outperforming the county by 11 percent in English Language Arts and two percent in math.

Still, the results were mixed, with English language arts scores dropping from 60.5 to 57.9 in 2013, while math scores ticked up slightly from 44.9 to 45.9.

However, when compared to statewide results, those numbers are pretty close.

Across California, 56.4 percent of students posted a score of proficient and above in math this year, which was 0.3 of a percentage point lower than 2012.

In English-language arts, 56.4 percent of students scored proficient and above, 0.8 of a percentage point lower than the prior year.

"We recognize that there were some increases in scores and decreases in others, so we will be looking at building on our strengths and expanding our interventions as needed," said Traci Minjares, Chief Administrator of Instructional Services and Technology for the Tehachapi Unified School District. "The district, its site leaders and teachers will be analyzing the scores at the beginning of the year by drilling down into the different strands to see where we need to better target our instruction."

According to Minjares, the district has already begun targeting ways to improve scores, expanding intervention classes in English Language Arts and Math from the elementary level to include middle school and high school, as well as implementing a Mastering Math Facts program to assist students in reaching automaticity with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

The district will be using a new data system that will assist it in analyzing its instructional effectiveness and provide immediate feedback to teachers, staff and parents, as well as collaborating with K-12 math teachers to better articulate across the grade levels on what needs to be strengthened, so that students are better prepared for higher level math courses.

So, with all of those programs in place -- why the dip in scores?

Minjares said one factor could be the transition to the new state academic standards.

"Transitioning to the new standards will have an impact over the next couple of years," she said. "But I believe the new standards will have a positive impact and will better prepare our students for college or career in the 21st century."

The transition Minjares is referring to, is the nationwide Common Core State Standards, which is set to replace the current STAR program pending legislative approval, on July 1, 2014.

With the new standards -- designed to better prepare students for college and the workplace -- comes a new test, which will be issued and taken electronically.

Since 2010, California, 44 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core standards for English-language arts and math.

Finally, while ELA and math scores dropped, there was some good news in Tehachapi, as students showed gains in science, with a 68.9 percent scoring, an increase of 1.6 of a percentage point over last year.

Minjares attributes the increased science scores to the district's effort to provide more science based programs, like its elementary school GATE enrichment classes, Gateway to Technology classes at the middle school and Project Lead the Way classes (Digital Electronics, Bio technical Engineering, Principles of Engineering, and Introduction to Engineering Design) at the high school level.

"As a district we will continue to focus on raising the number of students who achieve proficient and advanced on the California Standardized Testing and Reporting assessments," she said. "Our hard working, dedicated staff will be using local benchmarks, current reliable data, and sound instructional strategies to assist all students in achieving proficiency."

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