Rancho Santa Fe School students outperform state, county on new assessment tests

The Rancho Santa Fe School District board celebrated above-average Smarter Balanced Assessment test scores at its Oct. 9 meeting.

Over half of students in grades 3-5 exceeded standards in math and English language arts on the SBAC test. Fifty-six percent of RSF elementary school students exceeded standards in math compared with only 14 percent of students in the state and 18 percent of students in San Diego County.

In middle school, 39 percent exceeded standards in math and 33 percent met the standards in math. Forty-seven percent of RSF middle schoolers met the ELA standards and 33 percent exceeded them, again a marked improvement over state and county percentages.

“We have some good news to share and some areas for opportunity for growth,” said Superintendent Lindy Delaney. “The students as a whole really put their heart and soul into taking this test. It was a longer test, it was a harder test and I’m very proud of their efforts. We now have our marching orders to move forward.”

This spring was the first year for the SBAC California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) tests, which replaced the STAR tests for students in grades 3-8 in English Language Arts (ELA) and math.

Students were tested in the claims (or subject areas) of reading, writing, listening and research inquiry in ELA. In math, students were tested in the claims of concepts of procedures, problem solving, communicating and reasoning.

Elementary school Principal Kim Pinkerton said she was proud that the students were above standard in communicating about math, as there were lots of questions about why students had to write about math during the initial Common Core roll-out.

“That’s something that we’ve worked on, and it shows,” Pinkerton said.

The tests differ from the former STAR tests in that they are computer-adaptive rather than fixed form paper and pencil. The test adapts, based on the answers that students give. While the recommended testing time for STAR tests was about five to six and a half hours, the SBAC test exceeded eight hours and in some cases took up to 10 hours for students to complete.

“The big difference for us is the required time area,” said middle school Principal Garrett Corduan. “We didn’t expect that we would have students going longer than seven or eight hours. That’s an area that we’re working on.”

Corduan expects that as students become more familiar with the tests, the testing window will shrink.

Pinkerton said the longer testing period can also be attributed to how hard the students were working — she said she saw real fortitude in the elementary school students.

“They really wanted to do the best that they possibly could,” Pinkerton said, noting they reworked and agonized over answers and were truly pushing themselves to perform.

Looking at the results by grade level, the third-graders performed the strongest, with 79 percent meeting or exceeding the standards in ELA and 92 percent meeting or exceeding the standards in math. Ninety percent of fifth-graders also 90 met or exceeded ELA standards. The district’s “low” point was in the seventh grade, where 74 percent met or exceeded ELA standards.

Corduan said while the middle school results don’t look as strong as the elementary results, RSF did well compared with neighboring middle schools.

“The students will be coming in this year even more ready,” Delaney said. “This test was the hardest on the oldest students, because they have been ingrained in the other way of testing and they had to learn new strategies. I was not surprised that the middle school scores were not as high as elementary, but I think we will rectify that in time.”

The district’s benchmark goal is always a 90 percent achievement level.

“The goal is that all students should grow,” Pinkerton said.

Corduan said they have already made adjustments to shore up instruction in the classroom and are able to target students who didn’t perform as well and make adjustments individual to them, to provide them with what they need.

Pinkerton said they pay attention to other assessment data points as well, but the tests are aligned so they can measure progress year to year.

Trustee Todd Buchner said it was exciting that teachers would be able to collect that kind of data and complimented the staff on their accountability — finding a problem area and bringing it back to the classroom and curriculum to fix.

“We should celebrate the work you’re doing and how ahead of the curve you are,” Buchner said to the principals.

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