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High school test scores show improvement

Rick Monroe

Special to the Village News

Board President Eddie Jones jumped the gun at the Oct. 24 board meeting of the Fallbrook Union High School District, excited to announce, "We're just getting some kind of early data,...but it sounds like Fallbrook has got some really good news," he said. "The data is a little overwhelming, but what we're seeing seems to be really positive, especially in the English arts side."

"I'm really happy with the progress of the students and of course the successful efforts of the staff to help us really kind of blow away a lot of the county in our test scores," he added. "So thank you, and congratulations on that."

Moments later, Superintendent Ilsa Garza-Gonzalez announced, "The state test scores from 2021-2022 were released yesterday. Preliminary reports show some significant gains, double digit gains, in English language arts for the second year in a row."

In math, the district took a small dip, but the superintendent said the scores are still higher than in 2018-2019. She said that at the next board meeting, Nov. 7, she will share the test data from across the years and broken out by the district's different demographic groups and subgroups.

"We are the only district in the entire county that had double digit gains," the superintendent noted in a follow-up to the meeting. "In fact, only one other district experienced gains and it was only a gain of 3%. Last year, we had double digit gains as well.

Most districts in the county are attempting to gain back scores that were impacted by distance learning programs from COVID shutdowns in 2019.

"We did this through COVID because it is that important to us," Garza-Gonzalez said. "When I would hear others state that teachers were not teaching, I would always speak up because FUHSD teachers were teaching during this time. We are all literacy and numeracy teachers and even though the heavy lift falls on English and math, all of our departments and support staff are involved in the process."

"Our district has been committed to systems work," she continued. "Our teachers attend a summer institute to establish their standard matrices. These are the standards that they have identified as important and the standards that we guarantee every student will be exposed to. Our data reflection cycle allows our teachers to assess progress and collaborate and establish agreements that they adhere to. Our guiding principle is that 'every system is perfectly designed to get the results it is getting.' Therefore, we changed the system to get the results that we wanted."

The superintendent added that the counseling team participates in guidance alignment to identify areas of focus and to increase A-G participation and access for all.

"We are also looking closely at student affiliation," she said. "FUHSD has something for everyone with our numerous pathways, sports and clubs. If there is a student that is not affiliated with one of these, we will find the student and connect with a group where they feel they belong. It is a culture shift involving second order change, but we are seeing the results of everyone's efforts.

In sharing at the board meeting, Garza-Gonzalez showed charts with test results.

"In English language arts, students score in four levels: standard exceeded, standard met, standard nearly met, and standard not met," she said. "We want our students to fall in those first two which are standard exceeded or standards met so had 25.98% of students in grade 11 that exceeded the state standard in English language arts. This is also the exam that will help them stay out of remedial call classes if they go to a junior college or a four year university."

"We had 34.93% of students meet the English language arts standards, so we had more students percentage wise than the state or the county that met standards and we had a higher percentage of students that exceeded standards when compared to the state – and very close to when compared to San Diego County proficiency levels. When we combine them, you can see Fallbrook High School is represented by the gray bar; 60.91% of our 11th grade students were proficient in English language arts and scored either 'exceeded the standard' or 'standard met' and that was higher than both the state and the county."

In math, 12.31% of FHS students exceeded the state standards for 11th graders and 19.82% of students met the standard.

"We have some work to do in math; some of the work that we've put into place isn't going to kick in until about two years from now," the superintendent said. "We're still making gains just with the shift in culture that we are working on. One of the challenges that Fallbrook Union High School district had in the past is that students only had made the two year math graduation requirement, which meant that by the time they got to their junior year many students were not enrolled in a math class anymore, so some of the concepts were a bit foreign to them."

Garza-Gonzalez explained that the Board of Education changed that a few years ago and now there is a three-year graduation requirement – not because of test scores but because a university requires three years of math.

"That was the main reason behind changing that requirement," she said. "Since we changed it, we have started to see a change a shift in in our math scores. Obviously, it's not only due to that the first class that will graduate with that three-year math requirement, they're sophomores right now, but the message that we're sending students is the more core classes that you can take – English language arts, math, science, and social science – the better prepared you will be for whatever choice you decide to pursue after high school."


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