Irvine students continue to shine on California Standards Tests

IUSD students continue to outpace their county and state counterparts on standards tests, according to the latest batch of scores released this month by the California Department of Education.

Serving as the cornerstone of the annual Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program, California Standards Tests — or CSTs for short — are taken in the spring to measure student knowledge of the state’s content standards in grades two through 11. In each subject, scores are divided into five levels of achievement: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic.

Results made public on Aug. 8 reveal that 83 percent of IUSD students scored in the proficient and advanced ranges in English language arts in 2013, and 81.4 percent did the same in math. Statewide, 56.4 percent were proficient or better in English and 52.1 percent met this benchmark in math. In Orange County, the proficiency rates were 64.6 percent for English and 60.8 percent for math.

Though IUSD’s scores plot an upward trajectory over the long-term, year-over-year scores for each grade and content area were relatively flat in 2013, reflecting a broader trend throughout the state. State Superintendent Tom Torlakson cited “ongoing budget reductions and the transition to the Common Core State Standards” as the primary reasons.

“As you would expect for a school system in transition, results varied from grade to grade, subject to subject, and school to school,” Torlakson said, “but the big picture is one of remarkable resilience despite the challenges.”

“While we all want to see California’s progress continue,” he said, “these results show that in the midst of change and uncertainty, teachers and schools kept their focus on students and learning. That’s a testament to the depth of their commitment to their students and the future of our state.”

Here’s what else the local results show:

•  The percentage of IUSD students scoring proficient or advanced in English language arts in 2013 ranged from 73 percent in 11th grade to 88 percent in fourth grade. Grades nine, 10 and 11 increased their scores by one percentage point from 2012. Grades five through eight decreased by a percentage point each, while grades two and four decreased by three percentage points each. Third-grade English scores remained the same.

•  Math scores ranged from 58 percent proficient and advanced for 11th-graders to 90 percent for eighth-graders. (Keep in mind that these scores were aggregated from different tests for grades eight through 11.) Math scores for grades five, eight, nine and 11 improved slightly, rising 2 to 4 points, while scores for grades two, three, seven and 10 declined slightly, dropping a point or two. Scores for grades four and six were unchanged from 2012.

•  IUSD students excelled on grade-level science tests, with 88 percent of fifth-graders, 92 percent of eighth-graders and 82 percent of tenth-graders scoring in the proficient or advanced ranges.

•  A preliminary look at the achievement gap shows progress by IUSD’s Hispanic students over a five-year period, but more work must be done to close gaps among subgroups.

Though big changes are coming as a result of Common Core implementation, CST scores have weighed 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.

By the way, the Orange County Register also has a story about IUSD’s CST scores here. (Subscription required.)