The Grade Blog

Thursday, Aug 08 2013 05:22 PM

Kern, state test scores edge down slightly

BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

Student performance on the annual Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR, assessments dipped slightly in Kern County and statewide in the 2012-13 school year, a decline generally attributed to cuts to school funding and the transition to new state academic standards.

California's STAR scores slipped by a fraction of a percentage point in 2012-13, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Thursday.

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In Kern County, 46.8 percent of students posted a score of proficient or above in English-language arts in 2013, down half a percent from 2012.

Math and history-social science scores were unchanged, with 43.4 percent and 43.9 percent, respectively, meeting state minimums.

The percentage of students who scored proficient or higher in science dropped 1.8 percent to 49.8 percent.

That's pretty close to statewide trends.

Across California, 51.2 percent of students posted a score of proficient and above in math this year, which was 0.3 of a percentage point lower than 2012.

In English-language arts, 56.4 percent of students scored proficient and above, 0.8 of a percentage point lower than the prior year. In science, 59.1 percent scored proficient and above, 0.4 of a percentage point lower than 2012.

Students showed gains in history-social science, with 49.4 percent scoring at least proficient, an increase of 0.6 of a percentage point over last year..

Parents should be getting their children's individual test scores in the mail soon.

Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association, blamed the state's small overall dip on funding and staffing cuts.

"A loss of more than $20 billion and the layoff of more than 30,000 educators are eventually going to take their toll," he said in a statement issued Thursday. "Some schools have lost entire support systems in that counselors are gone and libraries have closed. We have some of the largest class sizes in the nation and rank near the bottom in per-pupil funding."

That's probably part of the story, but it isn't all of it, said Kathy Hill, director of curriculum instruction and accountability for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools office.

The transition to the new state standards is probably another factor, she said.

"It's kind of like when you're merging into traffic. You take your foot off the accelerator," she said. "People are probably a little less focused on the old test and getting ready for the new one."

Pending legislative approval, on July 1, 2014, the STAR program is scheduled to sunset and be replaced in 2014-15 with the Smarter Balanced assessment, which is supposed to measure progress toward meeting Common Core State Standards.

AB 484, which would suspend some of the pencil and bubble sheet STAR tests, goes before the state Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday. If it passes, it will then go on to the full state Senate and then the governor.

Some schools are phasing in the new test gradually, so there could be a combination of both the old and the new tests in 2013-14.

Since 2010, California, 44 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted the same standards for English-language arts and math. Dubbed the Common Core State Standards, they're designed to make benchmarks for what children should know at each grade level more uniform from state to state, as well as better prepare students for college and the workplace.

Along with the new standards comes a new test, which will be issued and taken electronically.

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