Report Card

News and discussion on K-12 schools in the greater Sacramento region

August 31, 2012
Sacramento-area students post gains on STAR tests

By Diana Lambert
and Phillip Reese

Test scores in the Sacramento region continued to climb again this year despite state budget cuts that resulted in larger class sizes, fewer teachers and reduced programs at most schools.

In the Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR test, schools in the Sacramento region showed marked improvement on benchmark English tests and slight improvement on benchmark math tests, according to a Bee review of state data released this morning.

About 60.2 percent of students in the four-county region scored at or above proficient on English tests, up from 57.8 percent in 2011. Statewide 57 percent of students scored at or above proficient.

This is the ninth straight year that California students have improved their performance on the test, said California Department of Education officials.

"In less than a decade, California has gone from having only one student in three score proficient to better than one in two," state schools chief Tom Torlakson said in a prepared statement. "That's nearly 900,000 more students reaching proficiency now than in 2003."

Despite the rising scores statewide, an achievement gap continues to exist between Latino, African American, English-language learners, low-income students and other students.

Overall California students increased their English language arts scores by 3 percentage points and their math scores by 1 percentage point.

Both Folsom-Cordova Unified and Woodland Joint Unified credit their improved scores on targeted intervention programs.

Woodland Joint Unified made impressive gains on the standardized tests raising the district's scores in English by 4.5 percentage points and math by 3.4 percentage points. Folsom-Cordova Unified students raised the district's overall English score 3 percentage points and its math scores by 2 percentage points.

"We use data to target the interventions for students down to the individual student level," said David Knight, Folsom-Cordova Unified's assessment coordinator. "Then we intervene and we intervene hard."

The Folsom-Cordova intervention program, in its third year, includes before- and after-school classes, as well as Saturday school if needed.

Woodland Joint Unified saw huge increases in English Language Arts at both Plainfield Elementary, with a 12.8 percent increase, and Sci-Tech, with a 14.4 percent increase.

"Plainfield has made a very dedicated focus to increase student achievement in ELA and math," said Armando Olvera, the principal of Plainfield in a statement. "... We used a significant amount of our Title 1 funding to pay for classroom tutors, who under the direct supervision of teachers, provided small group instruction for students needing additional help."

Among the Sacramento region's largest districts, Woodland Joint Unified, Roseville City Elementary and Folsom-Cordova Unified all posted strong gains in English, improving by at least three percentage points. Roseville Joint Union High saw a decline, but it was minuscule.

All students in five grades at five separate schools aced the test, scoring at or above proficient - the fifth graders at Donner Trail Elementary in the Tahoe-Truckee District; sixth-graders at Judah Elementary in Sacramento City Unified; fourth- and seventh-graders at Miller's Hill School in Latrobe; fourth-graders at Rocklin Academy at Myers Street and second- and fifth-graders at Sierra Expeditionary Learning School in Truckee.

On the flip side, no students in 11 classes at 10 separate schools managed to score at or above proficient on the English test. All of those schools were alternative high schools, including La Entrada Continuation High, where none of the 46 11th-graders tested scored at or above proficient on the test.

In mathematics, about 60.3 percent of students in the four-county region scored at or above proficient on math tests, up from 59.3 percent in 2011. Roughly 51 percent of students statewide scored that well.

Schools in suburban counties generally posted stronger math gains than schools in Sacramento County, state figures show.

Among large districts, Woodland Joint, Davis Unified and Folsom-Cordova Unified all made good progress in math, improving by at least two percentage points. Sacramento City Unified, Natomas Unified and Twin Rivers Unified all saw drops of less than 1.2 percentage points.

All students in four grades at four separate schools scored at or above proficient: the second-graders at Fairfield in Davis; third-graders at Rocklin Academy at Myers Street; second-graders at Sierra Expeditionary in Placer County and the third-graders at Sheridan in Western Placer.

Only one grade at one school saw no students score at or above proficient on standard math tests: the seventh-graders at Success Academy, a school for troubled youth in Sacramento City Unified.

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About Report Card

Loretta KalbLoretta Kalb started her reporting career at The Sacramento Union, moved to KOVR-13 as a television reporter, editor and producer, headed to The Associated Press in San Francisco and eventually returned to Sacramento and joined The Sacramento Bee. Throughout her career, she has covered the state Legislature, courts, local government and, now, education. She is a Chico native and an Elk Grove resident.

Diana LambertDiana Lambert began her journalism career as a proofreader at the Lodi News-Sentinel. She is now a senior writer at The Sacramento Bee covering K-12 education and California State University, Sacramento. Previously she was The Bee’s Elk Grove bureau chief. Lambert was raised in a military family and lived at bases around the globe. She attended four high schools, graduating from Tokay High in Lodi and then Sacramento State University. She lives in Elk Grove.

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