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Some Test Scores Slip Across State, County

For the first time in several years, the percentage of tested student reaching state targets on standardized math and English tests dropped slightly statewide.

Aired 8/9/13 on KPBS News.

California students' passing rates slip slightly on state standardized tests.

John Pyle, 10 and Ann Sugrue-Morillo, 10, talk with Cara Serban-Lawly, director of technology and learning resources for the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District about their experiences taking new, online standardized tests at Rancho Elementary School in Spring Valley, Calif., Apr. 23, 2013.

California today released what will likely be its final full batch of results from the tests schools have been measured by for the last 11 years.

Across the state, 51.2 percent of students hit or exceeded state targets on math tests, down from 51.5 last year. On English tests, 56.4 percent of students met the state’s goal of proficiency, down from 57.2 percent.

The state also tests students in science and social studies but students’ scores on those tests are not used to reward or sanction schools.

This year, 59.1 percent of students passed the science tests, down from 59.5 in 2012.

History and social science was the only area that saw improvement, with 49.4 percent of students passing, up from 48.8 percent last year.

These rates still far exceed passing rates from the early years of the state using these standardized tests, according to the California Department of Education. In 2003, just one third of the state’s students scored at or above proficiency on English exams.

“While we all want to see California’s progress continue, these results show that in the midst of change and uncertainty, teachers and schools kept their focus on students and learning,” Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction said in a statement. “That’s a testament to the depth of their commitment to their students and the future of our state.”

In San Diego County, the percentage of students reaching proficiency on the state English exams fell slightly or held steady at most grade levels. Only eight and ninth graders passed at higher rates than their peers did last year.

About 62.7 percent of the county’s students scored at proficient or above.

Meanwhile passing rates held steady on English and social science tests in San Diego city schools. Sixty-one percent of city students passed the state English exams and 53 percent did the same on history or social science tests. A higher percentage of students passed state math exams, with 54 percent hitting or exceeding state targets, up from 52 percent last year. Passing rates fell on science tests, to 65 percent from 66 last year.

But San Diego Unified leaders said even the leveling off of scores represents progress given the financial climate schools have been operating in for the last several years.

"Our scores this year reflect the leveling off that has been seen around the state," John Lee Evans, the Board of Education president, said in a statement released by the district. "Despite draconian budget cuts over the last six years, our teachers and students have remained focused on teaching and learning. Now it appears those billions of dollars in budget cuts are starting to catch up with us."

The gap in passing rates between white students and their African-American and Latino peers largely held steady for San Diego Unified. This year 82 percent of white students passed their English exams, down from 83 percent in 2012. Only 47 percent of both African American and Latino students passed the same tests - the passing rate was the same for Latino students in 2012 but was one percentage point higher - 48 percent - for African-American students last year.

Students in both of these ethnic groups had higher passing rates on state math exams than last year. Thirty-eight percent of African American students passed the math tests, up from 37 precent in 2012. And 43 percent of Latino students passed the math tests, up from 41 percent last year.

Next year, California will start field testing exams aligned to the new Common Core state curriculum.

The tests will include open-answer questions and most students will take them online. To accommodate trying out the new exams, the education department has already made plans to discontinue many of the optional California Standards Tests.

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