Statewide standardized test results were published last week, showing Santa Monica and Malibu schools ranking above state averages across the board; however, a deeper look at the numbers shows some Malibu students have fared far worse than others.
Last week, the new California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) test, which replaces the STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) program, released its first years’ results from the 2014-15 school year.
STAR tests regularly showed Malibu schools ranking in the 80th and 90th percentile in English and math assessments, with Webster Elementary at the top of the curve, followed closely by Point Dume Marine Science School (PDMSS) and finally, Juan Cabrillo Elementary. The new CAASPP tests changed methodology and scope, bringing state averages sharply down, but even accounting for lower average scores, PDMSS appears to be falling to the back of the pack, based on initial results from the first year of testing.
According to an article published in the L.A. Times, state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson provided a statement explaining that scores were anticipated to be lower than with previous tests.
“No one should be discouraged by the scores,” Torlakson said. “They can help guide discussions among parents and teachers and help schools adjust instruction to meet student needs.”
Tests are given to third – eighth graders and 11th graders, with 98 percent of students districtwide participating in testing last year.
Overall, an average of 44 percent of tested California students were considered proficient or advanced in English, while 34 percent were considered proficient or advanced in math. SMMUSD students ranked much better, with an average of 68 percent of students proficient or advanced in English and 57 percent proficient or advanced in math.
At Malibu High School (MHS) and Malibu Middle School (MMS), most scores blew state standards out of the water. An average of 79 percent of Malibu sixth graders achieved proficiency or advanced rankings in English exams, compared to only 43 percent of sixth graders statewide.
Even within the SMMUSD, MMS’s numbers were high: the district average for sixth-grade English was 70 percent proficient or advanced. In fact, MHS and MMS students scored above the district average at nearly every level in both English and math.
In Malibu elementary schools, numbers also remain high.
Webster Elementary did very well in its tests. Webster’s averages ranked it second, behind Santa Monica’s Franklin Elementary School, in math scores, and fourth, behind Franklin, Roosevelt Elementary and SMASH (Santa Monica Alternative School House) in English. Juan Cabrillo’s scores placed it in the latter half of the pack, tied for seventh place in English scores and taking eighth place for math, out of a total of 11 elementary schools.
PDMSS came in last place for English scores out of the district’s 11 elementary schools. Third graders scored below state averages in their English tests, the only group to score below the state average in any Malibu school last year.
A total of 34 percent of PDMSS third graders were considered proficient or advanced in English, meaning 66 percent of the school’s third graders are not proficient in English, according to the CAASPP test requirements. Recalling that the state average for third grade english scores is 38 percent, the number may not be as appalling as it first appears, but it is notable when compared to Webster Elementary third graders, nearly twice as many of whom received proficient or advanced scores in the test (72 percent).
Often times with score discrepancies like these, factors such as income level or minority status play a role. But, out of 108 students tested, only five PDMSS students were considered economically disadvantaged and 23 fell into an ethnic minority category.
At nearby Webster Elementary, with a student body of 147, 10 came from economically disadvantaged families and and 24 were considered minorities. Yet Webster’s school averages gave proficiency or advanced scores to 76 percent of students in English and 79 percent of students in math, while PDMSS averaged 56 percent of students proficient in English and 56 percent in math.
When asked in an email how the district plans to use the data, SMMUSD spokesperson Gail Pinsker responded that, “All our school sites administrators are looking at their scores and drilling down to student scores to determine, with district support, what actions need to be taken.
“This test is only one measure that we use when evaluating student achievement,” Pinsker added.
The Malibu Times also inquired as to whether CAASPP scores could be used to determine funding levels at the schools.
“These scores will not have an effect on funding allocation; however, a school site could choose to direct funding from the SMMEF enrichment grant toward supporting an academic program,” Pinsker stated in an email.
Representatives from the PDMSS Parent Teacher Association did not immediately respond to requests for comment.