The Novato Unified School District is among many revising programs in a scramble to meet an increasingly stringent federal testing standard, even though their students excelled on last year’s STAR test.
Results are in for the 2010-11 Standardized Testing and Reporting exams. Every Novato school reached or exceeded the state proficiency standard of 800. The district as a whole had a six-point gain on its Academic Program Index.
Also, three elementary schools gained 20 points on the API, and NOVA Education Center increased 41 points.
Still, the district and three of its elementary schools — Lynwood, Loma Verde and Hamilton — are in Program Improvement status, which means they failed to meet federal benchmarks laid out in the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.
“We’re showing year-over-year improvement districtwide when it comes to the percentage of students scoring above or proficient,” said Dr. Iishwara Ryaru, the district’s director of accountability. “We’re meeting or exceeding the state targets. The federal targets are different. The federal targets are growing at a faster rate.”
No Child Left Behind required that at least 67.3 percent of students be proficient in math and at least 67 percent in English by 2011. Annually, that target number has increased by about 11 percent since the 2006-07 school year.
By the 2013-14 school year, all students have to reach proficiency in math and English. It’s a target far from the reach of most schools; in 2010-11 only 35 percent of California's elementary schools met the federal standards.
The Novato district is thrilled with its students’ test scores, Ryaru said. Especially noteworthy are the improved scores among seven subgroups, including those who are socio-economically disadvantaged and English learners.
“(That) is incredibly significant for us because it means this diverse range of our students are succeeding,” Ryaru said. “Our goal is to meet the individual needs of all our students, and one of the ways we understand how well we’re meeting student needs is by looking at subgroups.”
He attributed the growth to intervention programs and programs aimed at meeting the varied needs of each student.
Because of the PI status, the district will revise its Local Education Agency Plan, focusing on “taking steps to continue to get better.”
“We’re looking at program improvement purely as an opportunity to strengthen all these programs,” Ryaru said. “These test scores help give us a big picture of the district, of the school, and it helps us to see where individual students are improving.”
Statewide, approximately 4.7 million students participated in the 2011 STAR program, with 54 percent scoring proficient or above in English-language arts and 50 percent scoring at proficient or above in mathematics, the highest percentage since the program's inception in 2003.