IUSD students continue to excel and reduce achievement gaps on state standards tests

Students in the Irvine Unified School District continue to earn high marks on state standards tests while narrowing racial and ethnic achievement gaps, according to results released Aug. 15 by the California Department of Education.

The California Standards Tests, or CSTs, measure student knowledge of the state’s rigorous content standards in grades two through 11 and serve as the cornerstone of the annual Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program, which assessed approximately 4.7 million students in the spring. CST scores are divided into five levels of achievement: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic.

Over the last nine years, IUSD’s scores have increased steadily, with the percentage of students in the proficient and advanced ranges in English-language arts climbing from 71 percent in 2003 to 83 percent in 2011. Similarly, the rate of Irvine students who rate proficient or better in math has jumped from 70 percent to 80 percent during that span.

By comparison, 54 percent of California students scored proficient or above in English this year, and 50 percent did so in math. The numbers for Orange County were 63 percent and 70 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, a preliminary look at the racial and ethnic achievement gap over the last five years reveals significant progress. Since 2007, the gap between African-American students and white students across all grade levels in IUSD was reduced by 9 percentage points in English and 7 percentage points in math. A similar gap between Hispanic and white students has decreased by 6 percentage points in English and 5 percentage points in math.

“Though test scores are only one measure of performance, our students, parents and staff members should be extremely proud of these results,” said IUSD Superintendent of Schools Terry L. Walker. “Each year, our schools pursue a path of continuous improvement by focusing on the specific learning needs of each student. That approach is paying off in the form of higher overall marks and a reduction in critical achievement gaps.”

In other findings:

•  The percentage of students deemed proficient or advanced in English-language arts ranged from 71 percent among 11th-graders to 90 percent among fourth-graders. All grade levels increased from 1 to 5 percentage points with the exception of grades six and eight, where scores remained flat, and grade seven, which saw a 1-point decline.

•  Math scores ranged from 55 percent proficient and advanced in the 11th grade to 90 percent in fourth grade. (In grades eight through 11, scores are aggregated to include all different levels of mathematics.) Scores for grades two and nine remained the same, while grades five through seven showed a slight decrease of 1 to 2 percentage points. All other grade levels gained between 1 and 4 percentage points.

•  A high percentage of students once again aced the science tests administered in grades five, eight and 10. Ninety percent of fifth-graders and 92 percent of eighth-graders were in the proficient and advanced ranges this year. Among 10th-graders the figure was 81 percent, which represented a 5-point increase over last year.

 CST scores weigh heavily in the state’s annual accountability index and in the federal No Child Left Behind requirements. For school-level reports or to access specific STAR results from districts and counties around the state, click here. To read The Orange County Register’s coverage, click here.