High school students improve on proficiency tests | TahoeDailyTribune.com

High school students improve on proficiency tests

William Ferchland

Roughly two-thirds of South Tahoe High School students in the class of 2006 passed a newly required test for graduation, according to results released Monday by the California Department of Education.

Scores on the California High School Exit Exam received the most focus as passing the exam will be a graduation requirement for next year’s seniors.

Factoring alternative education sites like Mount Tallac and the Transitional Learning Center with the high school, 68 percent of 505 students in the district who took the exam last spring passed the English portion. It compares with 70 percent of 463 students passing the math portion.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said the state-wide results exceeded his expectations. Since the class of 2006 first took the test as sophomores in 2003-04, an estimated 88 percent of California students have passed both the English-language arts and math portions of the exam.

“The California High School Exit Exam is one of the cornerstones of California’s accountability system,” O’Connell said in a prepared statement. “Adding CAHSEE to our graduation requirements gives employers, students and the public assurance that a diploma signifies mastery of the minimal skills necessary for a student to succeed after high school.”

In Lake Tahoe Unified School District, female students did better than their male counterparts. Filipino students performed better than Hispanic students. Caucasian students scored best overall.

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The overall marks were below the county’s rate but above the state’s percentages from tests taken in the spring.

Lake Tahoe Unified Superintendent James Tarwater said more attention needs to be given to English learners. He predicted an “action plan” will be directed at all schools.

“It has to be from kindergarten all the way to 12th (grade),” Tarwater said.

The district was also on par with the state with special education and economically disadvantaged students having low scores.

“While I am pleased that the majority of students are successfully passing the exam, I am also troubled by the persistence of the achievement gap among many of our subgroups,” O’Connell said. “I expect our high schools to focus on those students who are in danger of not mastering the skills measured by this exam. I want to remind all students that passage of the exit exam will be a graduation requirement this year. I urge them to take it seriously.”

Local school districts can decide whether to allow students who haven’t passed the test to participate in graduation ceremonies, said Hilary McLean, California Department of Education spokeswoman. But they won’t be considered graduates by the state, she said.

Accompanying CAHSEE results were scores of three tests that combine to form the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program.

Scores are divided into five categories – advances, proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic – with 4.8 million students in the state from second grade to high school juniors being tested.

The district showed improvement on one component of STAR, the California Standards Test, in both English-language arts and math. In the 2003-04 school year, 37 percent of 3,815 students from second to 11th grade scored proficient or better in English-language arts. Last school year, 41 percent of 3,522 students in the same grade range scored proficient or better.

On the math portion, 35 percent of 2,217 students from second to seventh grade scored proficient or advanced in the 2003-04 school year. A year later, 39 percent of 1,982 second- to seventh-graders scored high marks.

“We’re making gains and we’ll continue to make gains,” Tarwater said.

The STAR program includes test results from the California standards tests, a national standardized test and the California Achievement Tests, all of which measure skills in reading, language, spelling and math.

The STAR results also are used to calculate how well the state is meeting the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Under the federal law, states must ensure all students are proficient in reading and math by the 2013-2104 year.

Schools must show yearly progress and include English-language learners and special education students. That measurement, called Adequate Yearly Progress, is scheduled to be released at the end of August.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report