Alameda students' test scores rise, despite statewide decline

Alameda students' test scores rise, despite statewide decline

Michele Ellson

Alameda’s public school students scored better on standardized math and English tests this year than they did in 2012, even as statewide test scores slid for the first time in over a decade.

The results came as the state prepares to phase out its existing tests and curriculum and roll out Common Core Standards.

Nearly 71 percent of students in grades two to 11 who took the 2013 California Standards Test in English language arts scored proficient or above, which is the desired standard. That’s a fraction of a point higher than the percentage who scored proficient in 2012, state data show.

Overall, the percentage of Alameda students proficient in math grew 1.2 percentage points, to 63.1 percent this year.

School district officials, who run their own calculations based on test score data, said the percentage of students who tested proficient or better in both English and math rose by 1 percent over 2012. Superintendent Kirsten Vital said the district’s calculations are based on scores of students who were enrolled by October and also include students with disabilities and English learners, who take different tests.

Statewide, student proficiency in English language arts slipped 0.8 percent, to 56.4 percent of students tested, while math proficiency slipped 0.3 percentage points, to 51.2 percent of students reaching that mark. Alameda Unified’s students also outperformed students countywide, with 61.3 percent of Alameda County’s students showing proficiency in English and 55.2 percent in math.

The number of Alameda students proficient in history rose by more than four percentage points, to 61.8 percent, and the percentage of fifth, eighth and 10th graders who tested proficient or higher in science rose by 2.4 percentage points, to 71 percent.

Vital attributed the rising scores to the hard work of students, staff and families, as well as district math and other initiatives aimed at boosting proficiency.

“Because I spend almost every morning in classrooms, I can say that our teachers are truly extraordinary,” Vital said. “We appreciate all that they do assist students in meeting and exceeding the standards.”

Vital said work on one initiative, Inquiry by Design, is tied to new Common Core Standards that are supposed to be rolled out across the country over the coming years and that the district will begin transitioning to the new standards this year.

Leaders in California and at least one other state – New York – have cited the new standards as a cause of declining scores.

Not all the news was good, however. Results for other high school sciences declined by two percentage points, with 53.1 percent of students demonstrating proficiency. And the district experienced some grade-level proficiency drops in English and math.

Economically disadvantaged students saw gains in math and a slight gain in English proficiency, an analysis conducted by The Alamedan shows. While black and Latino students showed some gains in math and English, their levels of proficiency – here and statewide – lagged far behind the district as a whole, though the district’s analysis showed big gains in some specific areas.

In Algebra I, the district’s analysis shows that 5.7 percent more black students tested proficient or above in 2013 than they did before. Proficiency in that subject among Latino students rose 12.6 percent; for Filipino students, 26.4 percent; for English language learners, 7.8 percent; and for economically disadvantaged students, 11.5 percent.

Vital acknowledged in a district press release that there’s more work to be done. “We are responsible to work together to ensure that every student at every school in the district achieves at high levels,” she said.