Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

New California test scores show schools faring better

August 16, 2010 |  1:30 pm

Despite thousands of layoffs and shrinking budgets, California schools -- as well as the state's largest school system, Los Angeles Unified -- posted gains in scores on annual standardized tests released Monday.

The incrementally rising scores brought generally good news to various reform efforts underway in the L.A. district, including at Locke High School and at 12 campuses overseen by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Schools still under direct district control also showed gains, some of them larger than the higher-profile efforts touted as superior to what the district could accomplish.

As in past years, the local and statewide gains are incremental -- nobody has found the magic bullet for improving student performance quickly. For the most part, low-performing schools remain low-performing and vast achievement gaps remain between low-income black and Latino students and their white and Asian counterparts.

Among the specifics:

* At Locke High on the edge of Watts, the needle moved slightly upward on academic proficiency, and gains in other areas buttressed the performance.

* Schools under the mayor’s control in South Los Angeles and east of downtown generally improved, but so did two schools about to fall under the mayor’s control for persistent low performance.

* Schools under the control of the traditional district bureaucracy scored the highest gains.

* Statewide, black students are faring the worst.

“Even as schools struggle with the ongoing state fiscal crisis, it is impressive that we are seeing sustained growth in proficiency," Jack O'Connell, the state Supt. of Public Instruction, said in a statement. "California’s standards are among the most rigorous in the nation. I am pleased that more than half of our students are proficient or advanced in English-language arts and nearly half are proficient or advanced in mathematics."

The state’s testing program consists mostly of standardized exams conducted in May. Students in grades 2 through 11 take English tests every year. They generally take common math tests as well through middle school. In high school, students take end-of-course exams that depend on their math level, such as algebra, geometry or more advanced algebra. There also are subject tests at some grade levels in science and history. A student’s raw score is categorized as advanced, proficient, basic, below basic or far below basic. 

Since last year, the percentage of students at or above the proficient level in California increased by 2 points in English and 2 points in math.

-- Howard Blume

Grading Teachers: A Times Special Report