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Test scores improve in state, CUSD
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The results from the second year of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) were released by the California Department of Education last week, giving insight as to how students throughout the state have improved since last year's testing.

The test results show the progress made in the Ceres Unified School District but also illustrates the areas which need more improvement.

More than 3.2 million California students took part in CAASPP, which includes a number of different assessments. The most widely tested are the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments in mathematics and English language arts/literacy, which are given in grades three through eight and grade 11.

Smarter Balanced tests consist of two parts. First, students take a computer adaptive assessment, which bases follow-up questions on a student's answers in real time and gives a more accurate picture of a student's progress than the paper and pencil test.

During the test, if a student answers a question correctly, the student gets a more difficult question. If the student answers it incorrectly, then an easier question is given.

Students also complete a performance task that challenges their ability to apply their knowledge and skills to problems in a real-world setting. The two parts measure depth of understanding, writing, research and problem-solving skills more thoroughly than the multiple-choice, paper-based tests they replaced.

Scores on the assessments fall into one of four achievement levels: standard exceeded, standard met, standard nearly met and standard not met. The state also computes the average scores of all tested students, called mean scale scores, which reflects the progress of all students rather than only those who changed achievement levels from one year to the next.

Statewide, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards increased at every grade. Nearly half of the students tested met or exceeded standards in English at 49 percent, and nearly four in ten students, or 37 percent, of students met or exceeded standards in mathematics.

The numbers are an improvement from last year's assessment, which saw only 44 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards for English and a mere 33 percent meeting or exceeding mathematics standards.

"The higher test scores show that the dedication, hard work, and patience of California's teachers, parents, school employees, and administrators are paying off. Together we are making progress towards upgrading our education system to prepare all students for careers and college in the 21st century," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

"Of course there's more work to do, but our system has momentum. I am confident that business, political and community leaders will join parents and educators to help continue supporting increased standards and resources for schools."

In the Ceres Unified School District, there was an increase in the percentage of students who met or exceeded California's English standards, from 35 percent in 2015 to 39 percent in 2016. Statewide, 49 percent of students met or exceeded California's English standards. In Stanislaus County that number was 41 percent. Twenty-nine percent of Ceres students nearly met state standards in English.

Ceres Unified remained the same on its mathematics scores, with the number of students meeting or exceeding state standards at 20 percent, the same as last year. By comparison, 37 percent of all California students met or exceeded state standards in math. Stanislaus County saw 25 percent meeting or exceeding state standards in math.

Thirty-four percent of CUSD nearly reached the math standards.

Nine percent of English Learners tested in Ceres school met or exceeded English state standards, which is a three percent decrease from last year's assessment. Thirty-six percent of economically disadvantaged Ceres students met or exceeded English standards, while those in families considered well off tested at 57 percent as meeting or exceeding state English standards.

"We are also very pleased that the percentage of students not meeting the English language arts standards decreased in almost every grade level," said Debbi Bukko, CUSD's Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services.

She said a focus on literacy has been an area of concerted effort as Ceres educators have implemented the California standards.

"No matter the grade or subject area, every Ceres teacher is teaching the literacy standards," said Bukko. "This begins in preschool and continues through 12th grade. We are very happy to see this focus on literacy reflected in the increased percentage of students meeting or exceeding the ELA standards in every grade level."

Bukko said that when examining the change in proficiency from one grade level to the next, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standards has increased, even though the standards develop in depth and rigor at each grade level.

This district-wide focus on literacy is particularly evident when examining the scores for our eleventh graders. Using the Early Assessment Program criteria, 52 percent of Ceres eleventh graders are on track to be conditionally ready or ready for college. Ceres' scores are very similar to those at the state level, said Bukko.

In addition to growth in overall achievement scores, analysis of the reading, writing, listening, and research and inquiry areas assessed indicate growth, with 62 percent to 79 percent of students above or near the standard in each area.

"Given the fact that the standards assessed were implemented less than five years ago and the students assessed in the spring of 2016 did not have the opportunity to learn all of the tested standards, we are pleased to see positive trends in the percentage of students meeting and exceeding standards as well as a decrease in the percentage of students not meeting the standards."

Individual student scores are reported to parents by mail. In addition, California provides a dedicated CAASPP Results Web site, where parents and the public can view and compare aggregated results among schools, districts, and counties along with statewide results.

To view broken down test results by county, district, and schools across the state, visit