The good news about the 2011-2012 STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) system test scores for the comprehensive high schools in the El Dorado Union High School District is that they show growth — in all four high schools. At Tuesday’s meeting of the EDUHSD Board of Trustees, Assistant Superintendant of Educational Services, Christopher Moore, explained the details of the 2012 test scores and the circumstances that might make good news like this, not so good news.
“How do we know our students are learning?” started Moore’s presentation. STAR California Standards tests given in grades 2-11 across California each spring are one measure. Other measures used by high schools are the California High School Exit Exam or the California Modified Assessment and the California Alernative Performance Assessment for students with an individualized education program.
The California High School Exit Exam is first taken in 10th grade; if students do not pass the exam, they can also take it in 11th and 12th grade. In 2011-2012 95 percent of all 10th graders in EDUHSD passed the math exam and 93 percent passed the English exam, considerably higher than the state results at 84 percent for math and 83 percent for English.
The California Standards Tests are another measure of student achievement. Achievement levels defined as “advanced,” “proficient,” “basic,” “below basic” and “far below basic.” Proficient or advanced indicates a student is meeting or surpassing the state’s target for academic achievement. Basic, below basic and far below basic indicate areas of learning that need improvement.
“These tests are like college prep exams,” said Moore. “All students in grades 9-11 take the English/Language Arts exam, 10th graders take the World History exam, 11th graders take U.S. History exam and the only students taking the math and science exams are the ones who are taking those classes.”
In the 2011-2012 English/Language Arts exam which all students take, 69 percent of the district’s students scored at advanced or proficient, the highest level in four years. The number of students scoring in the below basic or far below basic range dropped from 13 percent in 2009 to 10 percent. Math scores were also at an all-time high with 48 percent of students at advanced and proficient and the number of students at below basic and far below basic at an all-time low of 21 percent. Students taking the science assessment scored a record 69 percent advanced or proficient and a record low of 9 percent scored in the below basic or far below basic.
“The really exciting part of this testing is that the number of students scoring in the top two levels has increased and the number of students scoring at the lowest two levels has decreased and that’s exactly our goal: to have our students be proficient and show growth,” said Moore.
The state Academic Performance Index (API), a composite test-based score reflects overall school performance and measures improvement in school performance from year to year and Moore predicted that district API scores for 2011-2012 will show record highs.
But, despite the growth, two of the schools, El Dorado High School and Union Mine High School, may be considered, using yet another standard, to be failing. Both schools are Title 1 schools which means they receive federal funds for programs to address the academic needs of targeted populations of low performing students.
The federal government, through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act with the No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as defined by the NCLB. Schools and districts receiving Title 1 monies who do not meet the target AYP for the same subject area for two consecutive years are put into Program Improvement Status with specified corrective actions.
The problem is that although the target populations and the regular student population may make growth according to the STAR test results and the API, the proficiency bar for the AYP goes higher each year. In 2011-2012 the proficiency target was 66 percent, in 2012-2013 the target bumps up to 77 percent and in 2013-2014, 100 percent of all students must achieve proficiency — a goal considered unrealistic by many educators.
“The intention of the No Child Left Behind Act was to have every child be successful, but the proficiency standard expected is the great flaw in NCLB,” said Moore. “One hundred percent by 2013-2014 isn’t going to happen and we will not meet the proficiency target of 77 percent in 2012-2013.”
The California Department of Education will release 2011-2012 API and AYP results in October. If El Dorado High School and Union Mine High School do not meet AYP for 2011- 2012, they will be identified as Year 1 Program Improvement Schools and EDUHSD will have to notify parents of students at those schools of the P1 status and allow students at those schools to transfer, if they wish, to other schools in the district not in Program Improvement status. In addition, they must set aside 20 percent of the Title 1 money they receive for student education to provide transportation for students who want to transfer.
One school in EDUHSD, Vista High School, an alternative high school, is already in P1 status and parents of the 54 students have been notified that they may transfer their children to one of two identified district schools, Ponderosa High School or Shenandoah High School. If Vista fails to make AYP for a second year, mandated corrective actions include offering parents the option of having supplemental education services for their children, paid for with a stipend of Title 1 money. EDUHSD has already compiled a list of identified approved supplemental education service providers in the event that they may be needed.
“We should let parents know about the NCLB standards so they understand that these schools are not failing,” said EDUHSD Board Member Kevin Brown.
“I’m predicting record highs in API scores at both El Dorado and Union Mine High School,” said Moore. “The thought of labelling schools like these as failing is ridiculous, but we will have to wait and see what happens.”
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or email@example.com. Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.