But they're upfrom last year
Standardized test scores for Del Norte County schoolchildren improved last school year but still lagged behind the state average, according to results released last week.
The Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR, results released by the California Department of Education showed that of the 3,076 students tested in Del Norte County, 47.9 percent scored proficient or above in English-language arts and 42.2 percent scored proficient or above in mathematics.
By comparison, out of approximately 4.7 million students who participated in the 2012 STAR program statewide, 57.2 percent scored proficient or above in English-language arts and 51.5 percent scored proficient or above in mathematics, according to the Department of Education.
"In less than a decade, California has gone from having only one student in three score proficient to better than one student in two," said Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction. "That's nearly 900,000 more students reaching proficiency now than in 2003."
Students in second through 11th grades are ranked according to one of five levels of performance for each subject: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic. The California Board of Education has established the proficient level as the desired achievement goal for all students.
For Del Norte County Unified School District schools, out of 2,612 students who were tested, 49.6 percent scored proficient or advanced in English-language arts and 46.8 percent scored proficient or advanced in mathematics.
That's up from last year when 44.3 percent of the district's students scored proficient or advanced in English-language arts and 39.8 percent scored proficient or advanced in mathematics.
Although the district's scores lag behind the state average, in most grades they have improved substantially over the past five years, according to Steve Godla, assistant superintendent of instruction and educational services.
In all grades except third and 10th, English-language arts scores have improved dramatically. Third-graders' English-language arts scores have increased by just four percentage points in five years while 10th-graders' scores have remained stagnate, Godla said. However, all grades show improvement in mathematics, he said.
"In math we have been performing better district-wide than we have in language arts," Godla said. "In third grade we have a dip in language arts, but we do better in math. By the time we get to fourth grade we catch up over five years. We've gone up 12 percent in the fourth grade."
What the district wants to see is a steady progression of growth, Godla said. Overall Academic Performance Index ratings for all Del Norte Unified schools are expected to increase this year as well, he said.
The Academic Performance Index ranks schools based on California standardized test results. Scores range from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000. The state's goal is for all schools to receive API scores of 800 by this year. Two Del Norte County Unified schools have achieved a score of 800 or better. Others are knocking on the door, he said.
"Crescent Elk (Middle School) is at 786," he said, referring to an estimated growth projection. "They have had consistent steady growth over the last five years. Redwood (Elementary) has also shown considerable growth at 818."
This year 58.2 percent of Crescent Elk Middle School's students scored proficient or advanced in English-language arts while 45.5 percent of their students scored proficient or advanced in math.
At Redwood Elementary School, 62 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in English-language arts while 62.7 percent scored proficient or advanced in math.
Crescent Elk's Academic Performance Index rating has increased by about 86 points in the last six years, according to Principal William Hartwick. School officials hope to reach 800 by this year, he said.
"Our teachers are wonderful," Hartwick said. "They work very hard and are very dedicated to their students. The relationships and communication we have here lends to success."
As for non-district schools in Del Norte County, at Klamath River Early College of the Redwoods of the 34 students who took the test, 42.3 percent scored proficient or advanced in English-language arts while 12 percent scored proficient or advanced in math.
At Uncharted Shores Academy of 96 students who took the test, 41.9 percent scored proficient or advanced in English-language arts, while 28.4 percent scored proficient or advanced in math.
KRECR Director Bernadette Johnson noted the school's most recent test scores are from its Klamath campus, which has served no more than 49 students in the seven years it has been open. KRECR recently opened a campus in Crescent City under the condition that it improve its test scores steadily over the next three years until 50 percent of its students score proficient or advanced on the math and English-language arts portion of the STAR test.
"I think 100 is the minimum before they really talk about test scores being statistically significant," Johnson said, adding that she'd like to have 80 percent of her students score proficient or better on the STAR test. "We have a goal to be the best-performing school in Del Norte County. That may not happen in the first year, but by three to five years we want to be achieving a lot better than what's been happening in our community."
At Uncharted Shores Academy, which opened its doors five years ago, the district recently renewed its charter with the stipulation that at least 30 percent of its students must score proficient or better in English-language arts and math, said Director Margie Rouge.
"We made growth in language arts and in math we did come up quite a bit, but not quite to 30 percent," Rouge said. "We still have another year to work on that. We're almost there and we want to be up to 30 percent by next year. We're very happy with the results."
For information on individual schools' STAR test results, visit the California Department of Education's website at star.cde.ca.gov/star2012/SearchPanel.aspx and select Del Norte County on the drop-down menu.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org