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Elementary schools do well on STAR tests

Elementary school districts stay strong on STAR tests, outscoring most L.A. County, state schools

Posted: August 18, 2009 9:08 p.m.
Updated: August 19, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Santa Clarita Valley elementary school districts posted improvements and, for the most part, scored higher than Los Angeles County and state averages on Standardized Testing and Reporting Program (STAR) 2008-09 scores released Tuesday.

California students grades 2 through 11 are required to take the tests, which analyze subjects like English-language arts and mathematics.

Students are then classified into the following categories: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic.
The STAR test scores released Tuesday form the basis of the state’s Academic Performance Index (API), which will be ready Sept. 2.

Saugus Union School District
A significant number of Saugus Union School District schools made strides on STAR test results, Superintendent Judy Fish said Tuesday.

The growth reflects the district’s efforts to reach out to students.

“I think we are doing a much better job ... of trying to meet the individual needs of students,” Fish said.

Administrators have been focusing on students who fall into the far-below-basic category and intervening early, said Joan Lucid, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

“That was the area that saw the most significant growth,” Lucid said.

For grades 2 through 6, the percentage of students in the far-below-basic category for English-language arts ranges from 1 percent to 4 percent, she said.

The percentage of low-scoring students remains much lower than the county averages, where percentages in the far-below-basic category range from 6 percent to 12 percent for grades 2 through 6.

Every Saugus Union fourth-grader is given a laptop computer, which allows students to compose essays and then receive feedback, Lucid said.

STAR test results show that 79 percent of fourth-grade students scored either advanced or proficient on the English-language arts portion of the test.

Newhall School District
Newhall improved the number of proficient and advanced students in all grades, for both English-language arts and mathematics subjects, with increases ranging from 2 percent to 10 percent.

The highest increases occurred in math, Superintendent Marc Winger said Tuesday.

“Teachers are meeting regularly to do assessment and fine-tune programs almost by the week,” Winger said.

Teachers are also collaborating at school sites to improve student education. Newhall School District has a diverse student population, with 25 percent of students English-language learners and 35 percent economically disadvantaged, Winger said.

The district’s scores exceed state and county averages in all grades and all subjects, he said.

On the English-language arts test, 84 percent of fourth-grade students scored in the advanced or proficient category.

Newhall’s results represent a significant gain over the county average. Countywide, 57 percent of fourth-graders placed in the advanced or proficient categories for English-language arts.

Sulphur Springs School District
Sulphur Springs has seen growth in the English-language arts, math and science categories at all nine school sites over the past year, said Kathy Harris, assistant superintendent of instruction.

Harris credits the district’s latest goal to improve reading comprehension among students.

“Teachers collaborated and looked at student needs and provided instruction for the students,” Harris said. “It’s been amazing. We’re very pleased.”

The district remains focused on school sites like Canyon Springs, Mint Canyon and Leona Cox community schools, which have a high percentage of English-language learners, she said.

Teachers are intervening early at all grade levels to improve test scores and student education.

Students also received an extra boost in language arts time.

“We have staff that are devoting an hour per grade level of direct instruction,” she said.

Sulphur Springs relies on testing to gauge student performance.

“It helps us keep on track,” Harris said. “We know that at each of the grade levels, students have specific standards that they need to acquire and master and the (STAR test) is one measurement we use to help us monitor student growth.”

Castaic Union School District
Castaic Union School District reported growth in multiple categories.

“Fourth- and seventh-grade students did extremely well in writing,” said Janene Maxon, assistant superintendent of educational services.

For instance, 52 percent of Castaic Union fourth-graders fell into the advanced category for English-language arts, a significant gain on the county average of 30 percent.

The district is starting to see the effects of its new math textbooks that are more aligned to state teaching standards, she said.

Castaic Union’s K-5 teachers also participate in training exercises multiple times throughout the school year to improve math instruction.

“We really got a good bang for our buck,” Maxon said. “Basically we are all continuing to trend upwards.”

The district remains focused on improving test results for students who scored in the below-basic and far-below-basic categories while maintaining the strong scores of advanced and proficient students.

“We’re just going to continue to maintain and sustain training and collaboration in regards to the new math series,” she said.



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