2016-09-02 / Front Page

Students score higher than state, county

District makes progress in second year of Common Core testing
By Hector Gonzalez

In the second year of Common Core testing, Simi Valley public school students maintained last year’s math score and improved their English score.

This year a total of 8,985 Simi Valley Unified School District students in grades three to eight and 11 took the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress exams, also known as the Smarter Balanced tests.

This year, 54 percent of the students who took the tests met the achievement standard in English language arts, up 3 percent from 2015. In math, 42 percent met the state standard, unchanged from 2015.

“I am very pleased with our results as they show improvement overall, and there are many individual school highlights that show that our targeted efforts are working,” SVUSD Superintendent Jason Peplinski said in an email.

Several changes in the district helped boost students’ results on the assessments, he said.

“I believe the additional technology, staff development and teacher innovation have led to these results,” the superintendent said. “There is also a new math textbook adoption in place, and that, too, should add to improved results (in the future).”

District students did better than their peers statewide, according to the results released Aug. 24 by the California Department of Education.

Of the 3.2 million students who took the assessments in California, 49 percent met the state standard in English, while 37 percent met the math standard, up 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively, from 2015.

For State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the gains made by students statewide are a sign that the assessment system, introduced in 2014-15 to measure the skills of all students against the same academic standards in the same way, is working.

Replacing the former Student Testing and Reporting (STAR) system that phased out Jan. 1, 2014, the CAASPP aims at getting students ready for college or careers by focusing on clear writing, critical thinking and problem-solving, according to the education department’s website.

“Of course there’s more work to do, but our system has momentum,” Torlakson said in a statement. “The higher test scores show that the dedication, hard work and patience of California’s teachers, parents, school employees and administrators are paying off.

“Together we are making progress toward upgrading our education system to prepare all students for careers and college in the 21st century.”

In Simi Valley, Peplinski said, the assessments administered this past spring provide a good yardstick for administrators, teachers and parents to gauge student achievement.

He highlighted several schools that stood out in the assessment results.

“For example, the greatest gains at any of our schools happened at Arroyo, a Title I school,” the superintendent said.

Title I schools are those with high numbers of socio-econimically disadvantaged students. They receive special federal funding to better help at-risk students.

“Katherine Elementary also saw double-digit gains in English language arts,” Peplinski said. “Atherwood and Crestview saw the highest gains in math.

“ At the middle schools, Hillside saw 13 percent growth in English language arts and 11 percent growth in math. All three middle schools comparatively are very strong.”

But assessment results are only a snapshot, he said.

“In no way do they show the complete picture.”

Local parents shopping for good schools for their kids should dig deeper than test scores, Peplinski said.

“I would encourage parents to do more than look at a school’s assessment results as the determining factor when choosing a school. Schools have culture and unique programming that needs to be considered in that decision,” he said.

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