Though test scores in Del Norte County lagged behind the state average for a fourth year in a row, local education officials say there are areas where Del Norte students have performed better than the state average.

Del Norte County Unified School District Superintendent Jeff Harris pointed out though it’s in its fourth year, the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) is a new testing system that changes every year.

It’s a new way of testing and, for each group of students, is a different test than the one they took the year before, Harris said Thursday. The test is more complex and has a different set of standards, he said.

But rather than compare the scores of one grade level to how their peers at the same grade level did the year before, Harris said comparing students’ test results as they progress through their school career paints a more complete picture of how the district is performing.

“If I’m looking at the
cohort of students who took their first test in third-grade and then just completed fifth-grade last year, in math, the district average last year was 22 percent of fifth-graders were able to pass that test,” he said. “In third-grade (it was) 31 percent of those students. It was a 9 percent decrease in the number of kids that were proficient in the same cohort. That’s pretty bad. In the state, they had a 10 percent decrease with the same cohort of students, so statewide, there was a significant drop in the number of students that were proficient or advanced on those tests for those three years. We are actually doing better than the state average as far as eliminating the regression or not meeting standards.”

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.

The results

Of the 1,848 Del Norte County Unified School District students who received scores on the CAASPP last spring, 34.85 percent met or exceeded state standards for English, language arts and literacy. The remaining 63.15 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 this year are up by 1.59 percentage points from 2017, according to last year’s data. The percentage of students who nearly met or did not meet the standards for English, language arts and literacy are down by 3.39 percentage points from 2017, according to last year’s data.

In math, of the 1,847 students who took the CAASPP, 24.74 percent met or exceeded state standards. The remaining 75.25 percent nearly met or did not meet state standards for math.

In 2017, of the 1,862 students who received scores for the math portion of the CAASPP, 22.91 percent met or exceeded state standards, according to last year’s data. About 77 percent nearly met or did not meet state standards in math last year, according to the data.

At the Del Norte County Office of Education, of the 151 students who took the CAASPP in 2018, 23.18 percent met or exceeded the state standards for English, language arts and literacy. The remaining 76.82 percent nearly met or did not meet state standards for English, language arts and literacy.

In math, of the 149 Del Norte County Office of Education students who took the CAASPP in 2018, 7.38 percent met or exceeded state standards, according to the CDE. The remaining 92.62 percent nearly met or did not meet state standards, according to the data.

At Uncharted Shores Academy, of the 123 students who took the CAASPP, 43.91 percent met or exceeded state standards in English language arts and literacy, according to the CDE. The remaining 56.1 percent nearly met or did not exceed state standards in English language arts and literacy.

In math, of the 120 students who took the CAASPP, 24.17 percent met or exceeded state standards, according to the data. The remaining 75.83 percent nearly met or did not meet state standards in math.

California tested more than 3 million students. In all tested grades, 49.88 percent of students met or exceeded English language arts and literacy standards statewide, a 1.32 percentage point increase from 2017 and a 5.88 percentage point increase from 2015, according to a CDE news release. In math, 38.65 students met or exceeded standards, a 1.09 percentage point increase from 2017 and a 5.65 percentage point increase from 2015, according to the press release.

According to State Board of Education President Michael W. Kirst, students in grades 3 and 4 made the biggest gains statewide.

Cohort progress

In Del Norte, though students who took the CAASPP in 2016 at the third-grade level and then again at fifth-grade in 2018 showed a setback in math proficiency, Harris said the cohort who took the test as 5th graders in 2016 improved when they took the test again as 7th graders last year.

In 2016, only 12 percent of 5th graders in Del Norte met or exceeded state standards for math, Harris said. Last spring, 27 percent of those same students, who were in 7th-grade, were proficient or exceeded state standards in math. For the same cohort of students statewide, the percentage of those who were proficient or exceeded state standards for math went from 33 percent to 37 percent, Harris said.

“They had a 15 percent growth, whereas the state started at 33 —they’ve only had a 4 percent growth,” he said. “While we’re still lagging behind in test scores, we are definitely in a lot of ways closing the achievement gap between our students and the students around the state.”

In English, the cohort who were 3rd-graders in 2016 and took the 2018 test as 5th-graders improved by 10 percent, Harris said. Statewide, English scores for the same cohort of students showed a 6 percent improvement, he said.

“We’re closing that gap for our kids as they move ahead,” Harris said. “We’re still not where we want to be, but we are seeing growth.”

Harris said test scores could also reflect a variety of other things, including whether the district had new teachers or if a high-performing group of students is offset by another group of students that are struggling. Classes may also have difficulty on the CAASPP if their teacher had to miss a lot of work due to a medical issue, he said.

Uncharted Shores Academy

Margie Rouge, co-director of Uncharted Shores Academy, said she noticed that USA students scored higher in English language arts than any other school in the county.

“We’re so impressed with certain grade levels, especially our eighth grade,” Rouge said. “We’re looking at how we’re preparing our eighth-graders for high school in comparison with other schools.”

Redwood School showed the next highest progress in English language arts and literacy, with 42.08 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards.

Meanwhile, 34.89 percent of the 344 students at Redwood School who took the CAASPP met or exceeded state standards in math.

Rouge said Uncharted Shores Academy’s test scores show that its program is working.

“In our county we have a lot of high-risk kids, at risk of having difficulties in school because of their present living situation,” Rouge said. “We realize we have more challenges than a lot of counties do and that’s why the average is higher than California’s. What we feel good about is we’re showing growth each year. We’re showing that we’re slowly making that gap smaller and we feel good about that.”

Test prep for next year

According to Rae Fearing, the district’s director of education technology, she and her colleague Leslie Machado, the district’s director of curriculum, are already working with school principals on interim testing between now and when students take the CAASPP in the spring. Fearing said she and Machado are also working with WestEd, a consultant the district is working with to help identify those students who aren’t succeeding and what needs to be fixed.

“(We’re) wrapping up our best first teaching by focusing on an improvement model for schools and looking at core instruction — what are we asking kids to do and making sure kids are completing tasks that really are meeting the standard in a way that is a hands-on and real demonstration of their learning,” Fearing said. “What we see sometimes is teachers teach the standard and kids are listening and they’re writing down information, but what they’re doing really isn’t at the same rigor. We’re having teachers examine the task they’re doing and how it measures up to the expectations for that standard and the students’ performance.”

Machado said the district and WestEd are also building professional development for teachers by determining where students are struggling.

Parent response

Parents may be happy or disappointed with their students’ performance, but Harris said they should keep in mind that the tests vary from year to year and it doesn’t show that their child is achieving more or less than they should be.

“It’s only a demonstration of a child’s achievement on that particular assessment at that particular point in time for that particular year,” he said. “Their child could be having a phenomenal success in class. Their child can be doing great work. But it’s one test given in a particular format at a particular time in a particular way. I would again, just to urge caution. We do know some kids don’t do well with technologically-based tests.”

CAASPP results for Del Norte County can be found at https://caaspp.cde.ca.gov/sb2018/default. class="Apple-converted-space">

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com .

21415577