Del Norte County schools lagged behind the state average for the third year in a row since the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) testing system was implemented, according to test results released by the California Department of Education on Wednesday.
But Del Norte County Unified District’s test results haven’t changed much from the previous year and neither has the state’s scores as a whole, said DNCUSD Superintendent Jeff Harris.
“We’re not that different from the state in that we maintained,” Harris said. “The state was pretty much the same as last year and we were pretty much the same as last year. As we move forward as a state we’ll get better at this as a system and organization. It’s very different from what our kids and teachers have been used to.”
CAASPP includes a number of tests. The most widely given are the computer-based Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments. These evaluate student progress on state math and English, language arts and literacy standards, often referred to as the Common Core.
Of the 1,866 DNCUSD students who took the CAASPP test last spring, 33 percent met or exceeded standards for English, language arts and literacy. The remaining 67 percent nearly met or did not meet the standards for English, language arts and literacy.
Scores for district students who met or exceeded standards for English, language arts and literacy are down by 2 percentage points from 2016, according to last year’s data. The percentage of students who nearly met or did not meet standards for English, language arts and literacy increased by 2 percentage points.
In math, of the 1,864 DNCUSD students who took the CAASPP, 24 percent met or exceeded state standards. The remaining 76 percent nearly met or did not meet state standards for math.
In math, of the 1,836 DNCUSD students who tested in 2016, 24 percent met or exceeded state standards. About 77 percent nearly met or did not meet standards for math in 2016.
At the Del Norte County Office of Education, of the 179 students that tested, 31 percent met or exceeded state standards for English, language arts and literacy. About 71 percent of students who tested nearly met or did not meet standards for English, language arts and literacy.
In math, of the 179 students who tested, 7 percent met or exceeded state standards. About 93 percent of County Office of Education students who tested nearly met or did not meet state standards for math.
At Uncharted Shores Academy, of the 90 students who tested, about 44 percent met or exceeded state standards for English, language arts and literacy. The remaining roughly 56 percent of students nearly met or did not meet standards for English, language arts and literacy.
In math, of the 90 Uncharted Shores students who took the test, 23 percent met or exceeded state standards. The remaining 77 percent nearly met or did not meet state standards for math.
Statewide, the percentage of students who met or exceeded English, language arts and literacy didn’t change from 2016 to 2017. According to the California Department of Education, about 49 percent of students met or exceeded English language arts and literacy in both 2016 and 2017.
Test scores in 2017 rose by 4.56 percentage points from 2015, according to the California Department of Education.
In math, about 38 percent of California students met or exceeded state standards in 2017, a slight increase from 2016, according to the Department of Education.
Harris said one reason for three years of low test results in Del Norte County may have been an out of date English curriculum and a math curriculum that was adopted two years ago. The district just purchased new English textbooks for kindergarten through eighth-grade this year, he said.
High turnover among administrators, teachers and staff plus the region’s geographic isolation may also be an explanation for the district’s struggles with CAASPP, Harris said. The district has 40 new teachers on staff this year out of about 200 total, he said.
Last year, about 15 to 20 percent of the district’s teaching staff were new, Harris said. He said he is also expecting 20 to 30 percent in retirements in the next two to three years.
“Really we struggle over and over again with investing money in professional development and having that turnover,” Harris said.
Despite the high turnover in teachers, the district has focused intensively on professional development this year, Harris said. Seven school principals are attending a year-long training course on curriculum and development and four are in a professional development course focused on best practices for school sites and principals, he said.
Meanwhile, the district has hired coaches to work with staff on instruction methodologies and technology integration, restorative justice and behavior intervention, Harris said.
Harris noted districts statewide experienced low test scores when the previous testing system, the paper-based multiple choice Standardized Testing and Reporting System was first implemented in the 1999-2000 school year. As years went by, test scores began to pick up primarily because students got better at taking the test, he said.
“There were literally classes at schools around the state that started the year off with test-taking preparation tips and tricks and would refer to if you didn’t know the right answer, how do you pick probably the best answer,” Harris said. “It wasn’t about academic knowledge. It wasn’t about content acquisition, it was about picking the right answer. (CAASPP) blows all that out of the water because in this test, it’s much more about how do you apply the skill.”
Harris pointed out test scores were better at Del Norte High School than in the district’s elementary and middle schools.
“Our high school, in many cases is above the state average,” Harris said. “At our high school, teachers are really hitting targets in a way that’s meaningful to kids as kids progress through that system. The number of below and approaching students are decreasing as they get older.”
At Del Norte High School, of the 11th-graders who took the test, 58 percent met or exceeded state standards in English, language arts and literacy. In math, 28.11 percent of the 185 students who took the test met or exceeded state standards.
Test results for individual Del Norte County schools can be found at http://caaspp.cde.ca.gov/sb2017/default.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org.