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Middle and High School Reforms Trigger Gains in PUSD Test Results

Five-year rate of impovement continues according to 2010 Standardized Testing and Reporting results

Published on Monday, August 16, 2010 | 4:17 pm

The rate of improvement in student achievement continues at Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD), as middle schools and high schools post double-digit gains over the last five years, and elementary schools continue to rise, according to the 2010 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) results released today by the California Department of Education. 

“This is strong and clear evidence that our emphasis on middle and high school students is producing results,” said Superintendent Edwin Diaz. “The data is promising and demonstrates that District initiatives to improve instruction in grades 6-12 have begun to be reflected in rising test scores. We expect that initiatives such as the Excellent Middle School reforms and College & Career Pathways will continue to boost student achievement in 2010-2011 as most sixth graders move into the reconfigured sixth through eighth grade campuses.”

California’s STAR program assesses public school students’ knowledge of the state academic content standards in grades two through 11.  These standards specify what students should learn in each grade level and subject area. Under the California Standards Test (CST), one of six components of the STAR program, student performance is reported in five levels: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic.  Only advanced and proficient levels are considered as meeting grade level standards.

In English Language Arts, PUSD students who scored advanced and proficient rose by four percent in 2010, with an overall increase of 12 percent since 2006. Growth was strong at the secondary (6-12) level this year, with ninth grade posting the biggest increase year-to-year with an eight percent gain, followed by eighth grade with a seven percent gain. The percentage of PUSD students who scored proficient and advanced since 2006 has increased in most grades by as much as 10 percent, with the greatest growth in grade five, which saw a 20% increase. 

In English Language Arts, Wilson Middle School’s scores rose by 15% over five years, with a two percent rise this year.  Eliot Middle School posted a 10% increase in the last five years, with four percent this year. Among the high schools, Pasadena High School rose by 16 percent over five years, with a six percent gain this year. Blair IB School rose by 15% over the last five years, and seven percent this year. Muir High School has continued to increase student achievement, rising two percent this year and continuing its steady upward trend since the launch of the Reinvention initiative in 2007.  Marshall Fundamental Secondary School showed growth across all grades tested.

Among the elementary schools, Sierra Madre posted the highest increase, rising 25 percent over five years, and three percent this year.  Webster Elementary saw a 23% increase over five years, and eight percent this year.  Roosevelt Elementary School student achievement rose by 22 percent since 2006, and was up 10% this year.

In Math, PUSD students increased again this year, rising two percent, for a total gain of nine percent since 2006. During the five-year period, fifth grade had the highest gain with a 15% increase since 2006.   The percentage of students who scored proficient and advanced in elementary grades two through five mathematics tests increased to a minimum of 62% per grade.  This year, the strongest growth in math occurred in sixth grade, which posted a three percent increase. Sixty-one percent of seventh graders who took the Algebra I test scored at advanced and proficient levels.

In Math, Blair IB School posted the strongest boost this year, increasing by 8 percent, and 12% since 2006. Pasadena High School also posted a four percent gain this year, for a 12% increase over five years.  Wilson Middle School posted a five percent gain this year, for a 13% gain over five years. Washington Middle posted a 6 percent gain this year.

PUSD students are also improving in key subjects such as history/social science and the sciences. The percentage of students scoring at proficient and advanced in History-Social Science has increased for grade 8 History (5 points), grade 10 World History (2 points), and grade 11 US History (5 points) from last year. 

Students scoring at the proficient and advanced levels on the grade 5, 8 and 10 Science test increased by 7, 4 and 3 percent, respectively, from last year. Science courses tested consistently since 2006 have shown increases.

State Superintendent Jack O’Connell announced statewide STAR results at PUSD’s Cleveland Elementary School in northwest Pasadena, and cited achievements among the school’s Latino students, who increased in advanced and proficient scores. Since 2007 at Cleveland, the percentage of English learners (EL) who scored advanced and proficient in English language arts has risen from 28.1% to a projected 41.2%. This gain from 2009 to 2010 is projected to be from 35.7% to 41.2%. In the past two years, the growth for ELs has propelled the school from failing to meet annual subgroup targets in 2007 to qualifying for the “safe harbor” status in both 2009 and 2010. Safe harbor status is conferred on schools that decrease the percentage of non-proficient students by 10% or more.

About the statewide results, O’Connell said “The growth in achievement is evident among every subgroup of students. However, we must continue to pay close attention to the achievement gap that shows students of color and poverty are trailing behind their peers. My administration has focused on closing the achievement gap, and I am pleased to see that among Latino students the gap has narrowed since last year. I remain concerned that we are not seeing similar narrowing trends among African American students and students of poverty. We must continue to seek and implement strategies that can help accelerate gains toward proficiency needed to narrow this academic chasm.”

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