STAR test scores rise slightly
Last updated 8/30/2007 at Noon
Fallbrook Union Elementary School District (FUESD) released their 2006-2007 California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) report last week. Although most scores were slightly up, fifth grade math declined.
Referring to the overall results, Dr. Brian Jacobs said, “We are making headway. We’ve had no major declines except for fifth grade math.” Jacobs is the assistant superintendent for educational services for the district. It will be his job to find out why the anomaly occurred in otherwise promising test results.
In order to determine the cause of the downward slip, Jacobs will analyze the instruction programs for that class group, investigate the source of any instructional gaps from class to class, examine the core cluster of students tested and break down the numbers by school.
Jacobs is also able to monitor the progress of individual students from kindergarten through grade eight, if needed. This test group was comprised of 576 students enrolled in all FUESD district schools. Looking at the larger picture, Jacobs says the district is showing year to year achievement growth, while the county overall is starting to level out. Keeping in mind that while statistics are revealing, they do not tell the whole story, Jacobs says no one test is designed to achieve 100-percent accuracy. Tests include distracter questions that require a student to analyze information. Although all of the subject matter has been covered in the classroom, the questions are formulated to find out if the student has absorbed it fully.
For example, this STAR report shows 46 percent of all second-graders proficient or advanced in English and language arts, but the same group may not achieve 100 percent at the end, regardless of individual progress, because it is statistically improbable. Likewise, 52 percent of fourth-graders tested proficient or advanced in the same subject but, Jacobs points out, one of the students tested may have missed one question, therefore not qualifying.
A number of factors affect student test scores. When a decline occurs, two factors the district looks at carefully are programs that may have been dropped and the effect of new teachers coming in. As this data is analyzed, Jacobs provides the school principals with information so corrections can be made immediately.
Other factors over which a district has no control are the state’s educational standards – California and Texas are the most rigorous in the United States – and federal requirements for No Child Left Behind legislation.
Demographic changes impact test scores, too. The influx of Hispanic students throughout California who are not fluent in English will be a prevailing challenge to educators for a long time. Knowledge of English influences comprehension of all courses, including mathematics.
According to the US Census, between 1990 and 2006, the Hispanic population grew 47 percent in San Diego County. Looking closer, comparing US Census 2000 figures with a 2006 report issued by SANDAG, in six years the Hispanic population in Fallbrook grew 31 percent. The SANDAG report further indicates there were 11,494 people under 18 years old (school-age), of which almost half, or 5,562, were Hispanic.
In an effort to customize education, the FUESD district is now using an online program that permits teachers to monitor the efforts of individual students. Jacobs uses the analogy of a physician and his patients to explain it. Much like a doctor would diagnose an illness and prescribe treatment, the program provides insight into a student’s progress and reveals areas in which the student needs help. By doing this, the teacher can then “prescribe” a “treatment” enabling the student to grasp needed information.
“We want all students to be proficient or advanced, but the numbers shouldn’t be a sledgehammer,” Jacobs says.
The 2007 STAR program consists of five components: California Standards Tests; California Alternate Performance Assessment; California Achievement Tests (Sixth Edition Survey, grades three and seven only); Aprenda: La prueba de logros en español, Tercera edición (Aprenda 3, grades five through 11); and Standards-based Tests in Spanish (grades two through four). Testing takes place between April 28 and May 20 and covers 80 percent of the material covered in the educational calendar, which began in Fallbrook on August 27.
Fallbrook school district scores can be viewed online at http://star.cde.ca.gov/star2007.