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LAUSD, California see jumps in state test scores, but achievement gaps remain

Craig Clough | August 24, 2016



LA Unified students increased their scores this year in the statewide standardized tests, but significant achievement gaps remain for African-American and Latino students, as well as for English learners and students from economically challenged backgrounds.

The improvements came along with increases statewide in the second year of the new assessments, which are aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

Roughly 3.2 million students statewide in the 3rd through 8th grade and the 11th grade took the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) standardized tests this year. The results place students in one of four categories: standard exceeded, standard met, standard nearly met and standard not met. The tests are also referred to as the Smarter Balanced tests after the consortium that developed them.

LA Unified’s overall scores increased in both English language arts (ELA) and math over last year. On the ELA test, 39 percent of district students met or exceeded the ELA standard, compared to 33 percent last year, and 28 percent met or exceeded the math standard, compared to 25 percent last year.

The scores do not include the results of the district’s 221 independent charter schools that were tested last school year. The California Charter School Association said it was analyzing the test scores of the district’s charters and may have results later today.

Statewide, 49 percent of students met or exceeded the ELA standard, which is up from 44 percent last year. In mathematics, 37 percent of students met or exceeded standards, which is up from 33 percent last year.

“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,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a statement. “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.”

The results were made available to the media yesterday in advance of the public being given access to the results on the CAASPP website at 9 a.m. today. LA Unified Superintendent Michelle King is scheduled to hold a press conference along with Torlakson this morning at 9 a.m. to discuss the results.

Torlakson said in a press release that a number of factors may have helped scores rise this year, including an extra year of teaching the California state standards in English and math, more familiarity with taking an online test, continued improvements in technology, and the use of interim tests.

But the achievement gap statewide and at LA Unified by race continues.

Thirty-seven percent of Latinos and 31 percent of African-American students in the state met or exceeded the ELA standards, compared with 64 percent of white students. At the distinct level, 28 percent of African-American students met or exceeded the ELA standard and 17 percent met or exceeded the math standards. Thirty-three percent of Latino students met or exceeded the English standards and 23 percent met or exceeded the math standards. This compared to 67 percent of white students meeting or exceeded the ELA standard and 57 percent meeting or exceeded the math standard.

“The achievement gap is pernicious and persistent and we all need to work together to find solutions that help all groups rise, while narrowing the gap,” said Torlakson in a statement.

LA Unified fared better in the performance of English learners on the ELA test than compared to the state, but did not best the state in two other key subgroups, which are students with disabilities and students from economically challenged families. These three subgroups are tracked by the state and districts are required by state law — the Local Control Funding Formula — to provide extra funding for them.

Nineteen percent of the district’s English learners met or exceeded the ELA standard, compared to only 13 percent for the state, but six percent met or exceeded the math standard, compared to 12 percent for the state. Eight percent of students with disabilities at LA Unified met or exceeded the ELA standard, compared to 14 percent for the state, and six percent met or exceeded the math standard, compared to 11 percent for the state. Thirty-three percent of LA Unified’s economically challenged students met or exceeded the ELA standard, compared to 35 percent for the state, and 24 percent met or exceeded the math standard, while 24 percent from the state also met or exceeded the standard.

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