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Mountain View's test scores show mixed results

Under-performing schools make big gains while high school performance falters

The latest test scores show that student performance among Mountain View's most needy students significantly improved last school year, indicating that a concerted effort to close the achievement gap at the city's lowest-performing schools could be working. At the same time, high school district officials are grappling with the opposite situation, following an unexpected drop in test scores.

Last week, the California Department of Education released test scores for the state's public schools, with the upbeat message that more students are making the grade.

In the 2014-15 school year, 44 percent of the state's students either met or exceeded state standards for English-language arts and 31 percent met the standards for math. In other words, a majority of students were not on the track for college readiness, setting a bleak starting point for the new Common Core-aligned assessment.

The 2015-16 test, which students took in the spring, shows that the scores have since improved, with 49 percent of students now meeting state standards for English-language arts and 35 percent meeting the standards for math. In a press release last week, state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson said the improvement is likely the result of being another year into transitioning to new standards, increasing familiarity with the online test, and the use of interim tests to prepare students for the real thing.

The Mountain View Whisman School District saw a greater improvement in student performance. Nearly two-thirds of the students tested met the standards for English-language arts and 60 percent met the standards for math -- a 6 percent increase on both fronts from last year. And among the district's Latino and economically disadvantaged students, those improvements were even larger.

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Ground zero for closing the achievement gap in the district is at Castro and Theuerkauf, the schools with the highest concentration of low-income and minority students.

At Castro, for example, 76 percent of the students are classified as English-language learners, and 82 percent are deemed economically disadvantaged by the state.

Last year, the school launched a barrage of new programs to help bring up student performance, adding longer school days, after-school help, professional development for teachers and an "intervention resource teacher" to provide students with the remedial help they need to keep up with their peers. The entire battle plan cost an estimated $538,000.

The latest test scores suggest the new academic programs could be making a big difference. Castro's economically disadvantaged students scored vastly higher than they did last year: In English-language arts, 39 percent met state standards this year, compared with 21 percent last year; and 31 percent met the standards for math, up from 20 percent last year.

English-language learners at the school also made substantial gains, with 19 percent meeting the state standards for English-language arts, compared with 8 percent the year before, and 16 percent meeting the standards in math, up from 13 percent.

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Test scores among the neediest students at Theuerkauf also climbed this year, even though the school is a year behind Castro in launching a comprehensive plan to close the achievement gap using supplemental money from the district.

Across the entire district, however, students not fluent in English struggled to keep up. The 2015-16 test scores showed that more English learners met the state standards this year, but at a slower rate than the rest of the state. In math, for example, 18 percent of English-language learners met or exceeded state standards, compared with 17 percent last year.

In a press release last week, district officials said that improving poor student performance among English-language learners and students with disabilities remains a top priority.

Although test scores across the state have improved, the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District saw a reverse trend. Scores for the 2015-16 school year showed that 69 percent of junior-year students tested met the state standards for English- language arts -- a decrease from 75 percent last year. And the number of students meeting the mark for math dropped from 65 percent to 64 percent.

Fewer students met state standards in English-language arts across nearly all subgroups, including ethnicity, economic background and English fluency, with the biggest decreases in performance among Latino and economically disadvantaged students.

Superintendent Jeff Harding told the Voice in an email that school and district staff will be digging into the data to find an explanation for the decrease in performance for the 2015-16 school year.

Harding noted that despite the decrease in test scores, students continue to do very well on state and national tests, including Advanced Placement exams and the SAT, and many students continue to be accepted "in high numbers" to prominent colleges and universities.

"We feel confident that our students are receiving the highest level of teaching and support at MVLA," he said.

One commonality among all three of the school districts serving Mountain View students -- the Los Altos district, the Mountain View Whisman district and the high school district -- is that the achievement gap continues to be larger here than across the county and the state.

Local students from low-income families, for example, tend to perform much worse on state standardized tests no matter what school district they are enrolled in. Economically disadvantaged students in the Los Altos district performed better than the state and countywide average, with 40 percent meeting state standards for math. But compared with their more affluent peers, of whom 88 percent met the standards, the 48-point gap shows a big discrepancy in student achievement. Similar gaps in performance among economically disadvantaged students can be seen across both subjects in all three districts.

High school district officials announced earlier this year that they would be searching for a way to close the stubborn achievement gap present among Mountain View's teens, but found no simple solution to the problem. One of the primary challenges the district faces is that it serves a large population of both high-achieving and low-achieving students, and must tailor programs that serve both groups.

The Mountain View Whisman district completed its five-year strategic plan earlier this year, which outlines nine initiatives designed to help increase English literacy and improve performance in English-language arts, math and science, and increase the effectiveness of special education programs.

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Mountain View's test scores show mixed results

Under-performing schools make big gains while high school performance falters

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Fri, Sep 2, 2016, 10:15 am

The latest test scores show that student performance among Mountain View's most needy students significantly improved last school year, indicating that a concerted effort to close the achievement gap at the city's lowest-performing schools could be working. At the same time, high school district officials are grappling with the opposite situation, following an unexpected drop in test scores.

Last week, the California Department of Education released test scores for the state's public schools, with the upbeat message that more students are making the grade.

In the 2014-15 school year, 44 percent of the state's students either met or exceeded state standards for English-language arts and 31 percent met the standards for math. In other words, a majority of students were not on the track for college readiness, setting a bleak starting point for the new Common Core-aligned assessment.

The 2015-16 test, which students took in the spring, shows that the scores have since improved, with 49 percent of students now meeting state standards for English-language arts and 35 percent meeting the standards for math. In a press release last week, state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson said the improvement is likely the result of being another year into transitioning to new standards, increasing familiarity with the online test, and the use of interim tests to prepare students for the real thing.

The Mountain View Whisman School District saw a greater improvement in student performance. Nearly two-thirds of the students tested met the standards for English-language arts and 60 percent met the standards for math -- a 6 percent increase on both fronts from last year. And among the district's Latino and economically disadvantaged students, those improvements were even larger.

Ground zero for closing the achievement gap in the district is at Castro and Theuerkauf, the schools with the highest concentration of low-income and minority students.

At Castro, for example, 76 percent of the students are classified as English-language learners, and 82 percent are deemed economically disadvantaged by the state.

Last year, the school launched a barrage of new programs to help bring up student performance, adding longer school days, after-school help, professional development for teachers and an "intervention resource teacher" to provide students with the remedial help they need to keep up with their peers. The entire battle plan cost an estimated $538,000.

The latest test scores suggest the new academic programs could be making a big difference. Castro's economically disadvantaged students scored vastly higher than they did last year: In English-language arts, 39 percent met state standards this year, compared with 21 percent last year; and 31 percent met the standards for math, up from 20 percent last year.

English-language learners at the school also made substantial gains, with 19 percent meeting the state standards for English-language arts, compared with 8 percent the year before, and 16 percent meeting the standards in math, up from 13 percent.

Test scores among the neediest students at Theuerkauf also climbed this year, even though the school is a year behind Castro in launching a comprehensive plan to close the achievement gap using supplemental money from the district.

Across the entire district, however, students not fluent in English struggled to keep up. The 2015-16 test scores showed that more English learners met the state standards this year, but at a slower rate than the rest of the state. In math, for example, 18 percent of English-language learners met or exceeded state standards, compared with 17 percent last year.

In a press release last week, district officials said that improving poor student performance among English-language learners and students with disabilities remains a top priority.

Although test scores across the state have improved, the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District saw a reverse trend. Scores for the 2015-16 school year showed that 69 percent of junior-year students tested met the state standards for English- language arts -- a decrease from 75 percent last year. And the number of students meeting the mark for math dropped from 65 percent to 64 percent.

Fewer students met state standards in English-language arts across nearly all subgroups, including ethnicity, economic background and English fluency, with the biggest decreases in performance among Latino and economically disadvantaged students.

Superintendent Jeff Harding told the Voice in an email that school and district staff will be digging into the data to find an explanation for the decrease in performance for the 2015-16 school year.

Harding noted that despite the decrease in test scores, students continue to do very well on state and national tests, including Advanced Placement exams and the SAT, and many students continue to be accepted "in high numbers" to prominent colleges and universities.

"We feel confident that our students are receiving the highest level of teaching and support at MVLA," he said.

One commonality among all three of the school districts serving Mountain View students -- the Los Altos district, the Mountain View Whisman district and the high school district -- is that the achievement gap continues to be larger here than across the county and the state.

Local students from low-income families, for example, tend to perform much worse on state standardized tests no matter what school district they are enrolled in. Economically disadvantaged students in the Los Altos district performed better than the state and countywide average, with 40 percent meeting state standards for math. But compared with their more affluent peers, of whom 88 percent met the standards, the 48-point gap shows a big discrepancy in student achievement. Similar gaps in performance among economically disadvantaged students can be seen across both subjects in all three districts.

High school district officials announced earlier this year that they would be searching for a way to close the stubborn achievement gap present among Mountain View's teens, but found no simple solution to the problem. One of the primary challenges the district faces is that it serves a large population of both high-achieving and low-achieving students, and must tailor programs that serve both groups.

The Mountain View Whisman district completed its five-year strategic plan earlier this year, which outlines nine initiatives designed to help increase English literacy and improve performance in English-language arts, math and science, and increase the effectiveness of special education programs.

Comments

Rosa
Castro City
on Sep 2, 2016 at 10:32 am
Rosa, Castro City
on Sep 2, 2016 at 10:32 am

Theresa Lambert, the principal, and all the teachers and staff of Castro School deserve great credit for these results. They have tough jobs and are constantly under criticism from the district administration and school board yet they continue on because they are committed and care.


Schools
Castro City
on Sep 2, 2016 at 2:35 pm
Schools, Castro City
on Sep 2, 2016 at 2:35 pm

Why are all the teachers getting raises when test scores are dropping?


Greg
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2016 at 2:44 pm
Greg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2016 at 2:44 pm


The article makes a big deal out of one or two percentage point gains and losses.

One percent of 1000 kids is ten people. That could be as simple as a single extended family moving into or out of district.




@ 25 likes
another community
on Sep 3, 2016 at 9:29 am
@ 25 likes, another community
on Sep 3, 2016 at 9:29 am

@ 25 people like - another community might not be populated by people who recognize an unsophisticated 'auto people likes' application. HA HA It is pretty obvious that someone is using VIP or other masking approaches to quickly splash a fixed number of auto-generated false likes, to many Voice comment cycles. Nice try, obvious ruse.

@ 25 people like, you might try a little less obvious approach, to Fool Us. Use a randomized seed or coefficient, to generate numbers close to, but less than 25. Then, we won't see an immediate '25 likes' or such a delta, and your artificial "likes" will be better masked.

@ 25 likes, perhaps you are fooling most of the people, nearly none of the time


@ 25 likes
another community
on Sep 3, 2016 at 9:44 am
@ 25 likes, another community
on Sep 3, 2016 at 9:44 am

[Portion removed; don't speculate about the identity of other posters.]
Rosa of Castro City may be surprised that I partially agree with her:

"Theresa Lambert, the principal, and all the teachers and staff of Castro School deserve great credit for these results. They have tough jobs."

these are my own personal opinions, and not of the MVWSD Board
these were not pre approved by the Superintendent or the Board President of the MVWSD


Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on Sep 3, 2016 at 11:03 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on Sep 3, 2016 at 11:03 am

sorry Voice - I don't know where that old 'registered user' password of mine went. So I wasn't really speculating about the post from "@ 25 likes". If I use a pseudonym to sometimes post (makes a good header), I try to always remember to put in a signed 'claimer' at the bottom.

Wasn't there a "Publius" guy who wrote The Federalist Papers? And a pseudonym heliocentric proponent in Sidereus Nuncios (The Sidereal Messenger).


Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on Sep 3, 2016 at 11:13 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on Sep 3, 2016 at 11:13 am

Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, = that and "Simplicio" are the works from the history of science that I was trying to recollect!


parent of high school student
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2016 at 11:52 am
parent of high school student, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2016 at 11:52 am

From what I understand, students at the high school level could opt out of taking tests. Several of the top-tier juniors opted out (too busy with AP/honors coursework).


Joel Lachter
North Whisman
on Sep 3, 2016 at 5:39 pm
Joel Lachter, North Whisman
on Sep 3, 2016 at 5:39 pm

Greg is right, these differences could easily be due to random irrelevant variations (noise). While I understand that the state summarizes the data this way, I would hope to see more useful summaries from the district. Judy Crates (former Castro principal) used to show charts that plotted student scores the previous year against the current scores, so, for instance, you could see how many students who were in the Standard Nearly Met category last year, had moved to Standard Met, Standard Exceeded (or Standard Not Met) this year (yeah, I know the categories had different names back then). This removes the large source of noise Greg mentioned that you are simply testing different kids each year. I would like to see this change coupled with publication of the raw scores. A score at the high end of the “Standard Nearly Met” category is much closer to a score at the low end of the “Standard Met” category than one at the low end of the “Standard Nearly Met” category. Reporting the categories rather than the raw scores a) removes information (signal), b) increases the effect of the noise (decreases the signal to noise ratio by decreasing the signal), and c) incentivizes schools to game the system. The fact is that, scored by category, you get a lot more “bang for your buck” trying to move the kids at the high end of the “Standard Nearly Met” line over the border, than you do worrying about the students falling farther back. When you look at the raw numbers you can see how much progress every student made, not just how many crossed a border. This in turn (because you are looking at larger numbers of students) results in more stable estimates of the progress being made at the school.


Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on Sep 5, 2016 at 8:30 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on Sep 5, 2016 at 8:30 am

Joel, there is such a built-in by the state comparison (following the cohort to the next year) but it only works up to the 8th grade. This is because the testing in high school is only one grade. At Castro, for instance, you can follow the same cohort of students from year-to-year, for instance from 4th into 5th grade, Math, Economically Disadvantaged

Web Link

Or Graham - from 7th into 8th grade Math, Economically Disadvantaged

Web Link

Using % achieving - yeah, so nice to see that many of the public /school parents/ can understand issues like signal to noise in data reporting. The State data also can show the score Average #, which binning by category only degrades (in a S/N way).

Now - how about MEDIAN of the population being tested? Joel, these are really Population Statistics, and the 50% above/50% below of the MEDIAN is what we all know how to think about (thanks to Realtors (c) and real estate reporters, who now report housing prices in the MEDIAN and not the average.) The statistics of MEDIAN and AVERAGE and when they are appropriate and inappropriate to explain a distribution are well covered now in school,

in 6th grade Common Core MATH! [standards explained by good old Sal Kahn & Co. kahnacadamy ]
Web Link

SN is a Trustee of MVWSD, these are his own opinions


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