BREAKING: Student test scores increase, but sanctions still possible

BREAKING: Student test scores increase, but sanctions still possible

Michele Ellson

Alameda Unified failed to reach federally mandated test score targets this year, putting the school district on a path to state intervention and sanctions.

The district’s overall academic performance index score grew by five points, from 847 to 852 – well beyond the score of 800 that serves as the state’s benchmark for success. But the district was unable to meet a federal mandate that 89 percent of its students demonstrate proficiency in English and math; 73 percent of the district’s students showed proficiency in English and 75 percent in math.

Both Superintendent Kirsten Vital and the state’s schools chief, Tom Torlakson, criticized the federal rules – which will require every student in the district to be proficient in English and math by next year. In a press release, Vital said that 16 of Alameda County’s 18 school districts failed to meet the proficiency targets; statewide, only 14 percent of California’s 9,861 schools met the targets, according to a California Department of Education release on the scores.

“Despite five years of increasing scores, we were unable to meet the mandated 11 percent increase," Vital was quoted as saying in the release. “But we are very proud of the fact that our district met its targets for so many years.”

Steven Fong, the district's new director of teaching and learning, said the district has been working to boost proficiency for all subgroups of students and that the results are an affirmation of the district's efforts to meet escalating test score and proficiency requirements. District-wide, scores for students in almost every major subgroup rose last year, with black and Latino students seeing double-digit test score gains. Only English learners saw their scores drop.

Only two of the district’s schools – Henry Haight Elementary and the Alameda Science and Technology Institute – were able to reach their federally required progress goals on test scores. William G. Paden and Ruby Bridges elementary schools are in their second and third years of “program improvement,” a five-year federal clock that could end with restructuring or school closures if test scores don’t go up. Will C. Wood Middle School is in its fourth year of program improvement, which means those changes will likely be considered this year.

Most of the district’s other schools also failed to meet proficiency targets, but only schools that serve enough low-income children to obtain Title I federal funding are sanctioned.

School districts that fall into program improvement – which happens when a district fails to meet test score growth or proficiency targets or graduation rate requirements for two years in a row – are required to notify parents about the district’s status, write a plan that shows how the district will raise test scores and set aside money to train teachers. If a district stays in program improvement for three years, the state could impose sanctions, according to the California Department of Education’s website.

Five of the district’s 10 elementary schools saw double-digit drops in their test scores, though the district said in its release that one of the schools, Amelia Earhart Elementary, experienced a “minor procedural error” and that the school’s scores actually went up. Scores at Edison and Frank Otis elementary schools saw single-digit gains, Paden’s stayed the same and the Maya Lin magnet was new last year, though the district said that school’s score was 71 points higher than the one it replaced, Washington Elementary. Haight saw its score rise 23 points.

Lincoln Middle School’s score dropped by eight points, to 904, while Wood’s rose by 19 points, to 785. Scores at Encinal High School and ASTI saw double-digit gains while Alameda High’s scores dropped 11 points.

The Academy of Alameda Middle School charter saw scores rise 28 points, pushing the school-wide academic performance index score to 808, and the Alameda Community Learning Center notched a 44-point test score increase. The Nea Community Learning Center score recorded a loss of two points.

Separately, the state also released results of the state’s high school exit exam. According to the school district’s release, 89 percent of Alameda Unified’s high school sophomores passed the English Language Arts exam and 92 percent passed the math exam. Both passage rates are higher than the county average.

Passage rates for English learners, low-income students and black and Latino students also rose, the district announced.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, Aug 30, 2013

A federal program that could force 'restructuring' of schools like Paden and Haight, which are both greatly exceeding the 'standard for success', is clearly completely broken.

Submitted by djs (not verified) on Thu, Sep 12, 2013

And next year the requirement means that if a student is low i.q. or just got off of the plane from a country with no written language of any kind, they should be proficient in language arts and math in English by testing time. HAHA