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NUSD Celebrates STAR Test Results

Improvements made in writing and science by local kids in state exams.

Measured gains in writing and science were being celebrated at the on Friday as the 2012 results came through from Standardized Testing and Reporting Program.

The STAR test provides evidence of continued growth for local students, said Vicki Romero, director of curriculum and instruction.

“We applaud our teachers, administrators and support staff for their commitment to the academic achievement of all learners,” she said.

Here are some highlights for Novato public school students. (All results can be found by clicking here).

  • The percentage students in grades 2-5 who scored advanced or proficient in English Language Arts matched or exceeded the results from the previous year.
  • At the elementary level, more than 74 percent of students scored advanced or proficient in math.
  • In elementary grades, the number of students advanced or proficient in science has reached 77 percent, an increase of 18 percent over a two-year period.
  • Beginning in fall 2011, middle schools implemented algebra and geometry courses in seventh and eighth grades, and 95 percent scored advanced or proficient on the state exam.
  • At the high school level, more students are taking advanced courses in math and science. In science, a higher percentage of students are scoring advanced and proficient on state end of course tests. As an example, chemistry scores increased 10 percent.
  • Of fourth-grade students, 88 percent scored proficient or advanced on the California Standardized Test of Writing Applications. Since 2008, those scores have increased 28 percent.
  • Of seventh grade students, 95 percent scored proficient or advanced on writing applications portion. That's an increase of 17 percent since 2008.

For a look at countywide results, check out this story in the .

State schools superintendent Tom Torlakson sent out a glowing statement touting how statewide scores in math and English-language arts have risen for the ninth year in a row.

“In less than a decade, California has gone from having only one student in three score proficient, to better than one student in two,” Torlakson said. “That’s nearly 900,000 more students reaching proficiency now than in 2003 — a remarkable achievement that represents real, sustained improvements in learning.”

Torlakson said the achievement is even more noteworthy considering how badly California schools are struggling financially these days.

“Even more remarkable is the fact that our students continue to make gains even as our schools and the teachers, administrators and school employees working in them are getting by with so much less,” Torlakson said. “As pleased as I am by the great progress many students are making, the deep school budget cuts of recent years make it ever less likely these gains will continue.”

“Preventing further cuts and beginning to restore what’s been lost are essential to helping every student learn and prepare for the future.”

Results for 2012 rose 3 percentage points over last year in English-language arts, and 1 percentage point in mathematics. Since 2003, the scores have risen 22 points in English-language arts - or from 35 to 57 percent scoring “proficient” or “advanced" - and 16 percentage points in math, or from 35 to 51 percent.

However, Torlakson said, while the STAR results show an increase in proficiency levels among all subgroups, a “persistent achievement gap” exists for African American, Latino, English-learner, and low-income students, compared to their peers.

“Like every teacher, parent, and principal, despite the decade of progress we’ve seen, I won’t be completely satisfied until every child has the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential,” Torlakson said.

The STAR tests consists of the following four components:

  • “CST,” or California Standards Test
  • “CMA,” or California Modified Assessment
  • “CAPA,” or California Alternate Performance Assessment
  • “STS,” or Standards-based Tests in Spanish

According to the CA DOE, the CSTs for English–language arts (ELA), mathematics, science, and history–social science are administered only to students in California public schools. Except for a writing component that is administered as part of the fourth-grade and seventh-grade ELA tests, all questions are multiple-choice.

The CA DOE’s website explains, “These tests were developed specifically to assess students' knowledge of the California content standards. The State Board of Education adopted these standards, which specify what all children in California are expected to know and be able to do in each grade or course. “

CST scores are used for calculating each school's Academic Performance Index and Adequate Yearly Progress scores.

Information about the API and AYP is posted on the CA DOE’s Accountability Progress Reporting website.

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Patty Maher August 31, 2012 at 07:58 PM
I think that's great for the middle school students in algebra and geometry. But for the kids not in those courses, the percent proficient or above in math at San Jose is just 54% in 7th grade and 49% in 8th grade. At Sinaloa, it's 63% in 7th grade and 53% in 8th grade. I look forward to seeing the full analysis of the results.
SP August 31, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Great job Novato! We all know that this type of testing is no way to judge a school, but the performance by these students and prep by the staff is certainly commendable.
Tina McMillan September 06, 2012 at 05:05 PM
"However, Torlakson said, while the STAR results show an increase in proficiency levels among all subgroups, a “persistent achievement gap” exists for African American, Latino, English-learner, and low-income students, compared to their peers." “Like every teacher, parent, and principal, despite the decade of progress we’ve seen, I won’t be completely satisfied until every child has the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential,” Torlakson said" We are fortunate that our State's Superintendent of Schools continues to address the struggle to educate all subgroups of learners. The President declared May 6th through May 12th, National Charter Schools Week. "As a Nation, we share a responsibility to provide our children with a world-class education. By keeping our young people engaged in learning, we help them develop the skills and values that will not only guide them in life, but also prepare them to thrive in the global economy. For years, charter schools have brought new ideas to the work of educating our sons and daughters, and during National Charter Schools Week, we recognize their role in strengthening American education." http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/05/07/presidential-proclamation-national-charter-schools-week-2012
ex principal September 06, 2012 at 07:09 PM
A very important note is that charter schools are not a panacea. They are a tool that may be utilized, not a cure all to close the achievement gap. Charter advocates tend to forget this. Also important is that there is LITTLE evidence that Charters actually improve educational outcomes. The most recent comprehensive study showed in fact, 17 percent had students who did better on the whole than their public school twins, in 37 percent they did worse, and in 46 percent there was no statistical difference. Parent choice is an important part of the equation as long as the choice is about school quality. Competition in America has always been a beneficial attribute of our society. However, competition that weakens an excellent traditional public school working on all cylinders, in all the right ways, is not the intention of charter law. Why would parents of an effective traditional public elementary school want to move their children to a charter school? And, is the competition with one more charter in the neighborhood a good thing for all children, or might it do harm to some?
Dexter Kaziff September 06, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Leave it to Tina to turn this story into a charter school debate.
Tina McMillan September 07, 2012 at 04:35 AM
Please read the link. I think the President's response says it all. "For years, charter schools have brought new ideas to the work of educating our sons and daughters, and during National Charter Schools Week, we recognize their role in strengthening American education. Whether created by parents and teachers or community and civic leaders, charter schools serve as incubators of innovation in neighborhoods across our country. These institutions give educators the freedom to cultivate new teaching models and develop creative methods to meet students' needs. This unique flexibility is matched by strong accountability and high standards, so underperforming charter schools can be closed, while those that consistently help students succeed can serve as models of reform for other public schools. In an economy where knowledge is our most valuable asset, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity -- it is an imperative. Our children only get one chance at an education, and charter schools demonstrate what is possible when States, communities, teachers, parents, and students work together. This week, let us recommit to ensuring all our children receive a high-quality education that expands their horizons, inspires them to develop their talents, and instills in them a sense of possibility for their futures. " Barack Obama http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/05/07/presidential-proclamation-national-charter-schools-week-2012
ex principal September 07, 2012 at 01:37 PM
The STAR test provides evidence of continued growth for local students, said Vicki Romero, director of curriculum and instruction. “We applaud our teachers, administrators and support staff for their commitment to the academic achievement of all learners,” she said. Parent choice is an important part of the equation as long as the choice is about school quality. Competition in America has always been a beneficial attribute of our society. However, competition that weakens an excellent traditional public school working on all cylinders, in all the right ways, is not the intention of charter law. Congratulations to all the teachers and staff of the NUSD for providing a varied and wonderful education for ALL the children, not just certain subgroups. We don't need Mr Obamas rhetoric (or the advocates) to prove that we can have innovative and fulfilling education in Novato without the need for a charter school and thus closing neighborhood schools that are performing very well.
Roger September 07, 2012 at 04:10 PM
These good STAR test results are probably more important metric than the poor PI results at several of our diverse schools.
Roger September 09, 2012 at 07:42 PM
My son is a junior at San Marin now. His math score was not high and he says his teacher last year said sorry they didn't have enough time to cover logs. There were about 30 questions on logs and my son didn't have a glue. I guess the STAR test isn't that important, true?
Tina McMillan September 09, 2012 at 09:47 PM
I don't know what "logs" are but Mrs. Taggart is usually at school first thing in the morning. She is a wonderful teacher. She use to give the kids donuts and help them with homework questions, test review and anything else they needed to understand math. I don't know the other math teachers but I think the key is not taking no for an answer. STAR testing is helpful in assessing whether students are prepared for State Colleges and UC's. A Bachelor's degree requires a much broader understanding of Math than when I went to college. In the 70's you could take business math as an alternative to Algebra, Geometry, Etc. So STAR testing is important depending on what your son wants to do after High School because it measures his understanding of course material that is now part of a degree in higher education.
Tina McMillan September 09, 2012 at 10:52 PM
http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/blueprints.asp Here is the link to the state website: STAR CST Blueprints Information for the California Standards Test (CST).
Edwin Drake September 10, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Parents should opt out of STAR testing as a way of having leverage over bad NUSD decisions. It's completely voluntary and serves NO purpose except to burnish the badges of the administration.

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