The test results of the standardized California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) show the Del Norte Unified School District continues to lag behind state levels in English arts and math.
But district officials see clear signs of progress.
The tests were administered in May and results released Oct. 9. The tests involve grades three through eight and grade 11.
Statewide, 51% of students met or exceeded standards in English arts, and 39.7% met or exceeded standards for math.
Del Norte student test results were 35.6% and 25.48%, respectively.
Leslie Machado, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, said she saw both bright spots and areas where a lot of work remains. “If we compare us to the state, it’s obvious we’re lower.
“If you look back at those ‘cohorts’ (tracking the same group of students across three grade levels) and see where we started, you can’t go from 60% having not met the standard and jump three levels in a year,” said Machado.
“We want to keep seeing growth, and seeing kids doing better and getting more content as they go from grade to grade. But at the same time, we know we’re closing that gap grade to grade.”
Superintendent Jeff Harris, looking at the overall picture, said the district isn’t seeing a significant decline in the test scores. “We’re holding the line, moving slowing ahead. This year, looking at English and math, what we’re going to see is a 1% increase.
“In some cases, what our individual school sites did appears at this point to be a bigger growth than what the state had, and in some cases bigger drops than the state had. Overall, we’re holding steady,” Harris said.
The CAASPP tests were piloted in the 2013 school year as an alternative to the failure of the federally mandated No Child Left Behind program, Harris said. In the process, there was a lot of confusion at first, because the new standards were around a student’s ability to persevere in solving a problem, Harris said.
“How do you gauge perseverance in a test? It was also a student’s ability to identify and communicate the problem-solving skill,” he explained.
So, math questions anymore weren’t “find the volume of a swimming pool given length, width and depth with a diagram.” It asks students to explain how the answer was achieved given additional, extraneous factors, such as how fast students one and two are swimming.
“So it really isn’t about finding the answer anymore, it’s about explaining the process of getting there,” Harris said.
“And the CAASPP has two portions,” Machado added. “The computer adaptive part of it starts everyone at a fourth-grade standard. If you do well on it, it adapts and it gives you more challenging questions. And if you don’t, then it’s going to drop down a level or stay around the same range.
“They really wanted to see your thinking in mathematical terms. And in (English language arts), it’s writing. So, it’s very different from our multiple-choice test.”
Harris said the state didn’t just want to measure progress from one test, so it came up with the California Dashboard. It now takes into account absenteeism, suspension rates, English-learner progress, graduation rate, mathematics, language arts, college and career readiness.
The district also adds some local indicators it tracks that the state doesn’t, such as materials, access to a broad course of study, how do students feel about coming to school and are families engaged, and what are the implications of academic standards.
The latest CAASPP scores won’t be updated on the California Dashboard until about Dec. 9,
Harris said. The Del Norte district staff is in the “process of really consuming the data, jumping in, looking at … what appears to work well? What things may not work as well as we thought they would? What time, attention and resources are we putting in?
“If it is working well, why? Where? What are they doing? And how do we replicate that? And if it is not working, is it an implementation piece? Is it even something we want to keep? We might be doing a great job at it, but it’s not helping us at all.”
To make these determinations, Harris said, the district tracks student scores two ways:
Longitudinally - for just one specific grade over three years - and as a cohort - the same group of students through three different grade levels.
Machado said this is where they are seeing some student improvement.
“That’s what you want to see, is change over time. More kids that came into ‘met or exceeded standards’ over time,” she said. “We really, really want to move that 67% to ‘above met.’
“Where it’s going to be done, we’ll track which kids are showing improvement and which kids stagnated.”