Educators react to STAR test results

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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Placer County schools, once again, have scored above state testing averages. The California Department of Education released its 2009 Standardized Testing and Reporting program, or STAR, test results just in time for the start of the 2009-2010 school year, and what those results show is, in quite a few cases, attempts by local schools to target subgroups, intervene with struggling students and move forward with the goal of all students scoring proficient or advanced are paying off. Students in grades 2-11 are required to take the STAR test each year, and they’re scored on a five-tiered scale: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic. Where 44 percent of third-graders statewide scored in the proficient and advanced levels, 61 percent of Placer County third-graders sit in those two categories. Where 74 percent of Placer County seventh-graders scored proficient and above in English, the state percentage sits at 54. Randy Ittner, principal at E.V. Cain Middle School, is happy with this year’s STAR results. “We went up in almost every category,” Ittner said. For example, 69 percent testing in seventh-grade English scored proficient or advanced. That percentage is up from 57 percent in 2008. In seventh-grade math, Cain went from 48 percent up to 60 percent. “I knew we could do it at this school,” Ittner said. All 20 students scoring on the geometry test placed at proficient or advanced. Ittner’s proud of that 100 percent designation. “There’s very few schools that can say that,” he said. There is always room for improvement, and Ittner acknowledges there’s still plenty of work to be done. But seeing scores go up is indicative of successful implementation of intervention, incentive and involvement attempts. “You’re doing the best you can so every kid is going to learn,” he said. Both pre-testing and post-test assessment are going to be a focus this year in an attempt to ensure that test scores continue to rise, Ittner said. Michele Schuetz, Auburn Union Elementary School District superintendent, said this year’s STAR results indicate a step in the right direction. “I think that it shows our schools are working really hard with all our students to improve,” she said. “Our work this year is to develop common assessment for our students so we can give them the common assessments and provide the necessary intervention for our students to improve.” Dave Horsey, Placer Union High School District superintendent, described 2009 results as “favorable.” Ninth-graders scoring at proficient or advanced went up from 67 to 71 percent in English, and from 37 to 40 percent in Algebra. Del Oro High School saw a gain, from 38 to 49 percent, in freshmen scoring at proficient or above in Algebra, and Foresthill High School went from 12 percent in 2008 to 26 percent in 2009 in the same category. “We’re seeing more gains than we’re seeing losses,” Horsey said. Horsey said STAR results are coming out earlier than in past year, which he appreciates because it gives schools more time to assess areas needing improvement in the upcoming year’s test cycle. “That’s allowed us to look at data earlier, which is helpful,” he said.