In the spring, students groaned, teachers tensed and administrators sweated through the annual ritual of state testing. After a four-month wait, the results arrived Friday.
drum roll please
student test scores in Northern San Joaquin Valley improved, for the most part, in English, but dipped a bit in math.
The STAR, or Standardized Testing and Reporting, program is the first of a series of school assessment statistics that will roll out through the year. These scores, high school graduation rates and a host of other measures will be folded into a single school score for a No Child Left Behind measure in October. School rankings follow in the spring.
Second-graders through high school juniors take state tests in English and math every year. Fifth-graders also take a science test. Eighth-graders take history and science tests in addition to those in English and math. High schoolers take tests as they finish the course.
In Modesto City Schools, the region's largest district, with about 29,000 students, Superintendent Pam Able said her schools did better in English language arts but suffered a slight decrease in mathematics.
That held true for high scorers Lakewood Elementary and Enochs High, as well as schools with a steeper hill to climb, like Bret Harte Elementary. Orville Wright Elementary and Davis High slid back, particularly in math.
"High schools have increased the number of students that take algebra. Algebra is the entry-level course now," Able said.
The problem in math is, literally, the numbers, district testing experts said.
"We're moving more kids into higher levels of math," Ceres Unified Deputy Superintendent Mary Jones said. The district believes the faster pace will give kids a better start toward college or career. She credits a three-year math grant focused on grades five and six for giving students the leg up.
Before, middle school algebra classes took only the top students, who generally scored well. Now, a wider spread of students struggle to solve for "x," and the scores reflect that diversity, Jones said. Ceres had 174 seventh-graders taking algebra, compared to 48 the year before, she said.
"The thing that really trips kids up (in algebra), believe it or not, are the fractions," Jones said.
In the Sylvan Union School District in northeast Modesto and Riverbank, nearly every eighth-grade algebra student passed the state test in 2007. Five years later, 77 percent did. Laura Wharff, Sylvan's assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, attributed the drop to the number of eighth-graders attempting algebra. Test-takers went from 166 in 2007 to 331 this spring.
Looking at all of Sylvan's scores, Wharff said math results for fifth-graders jumped, but most other numbers remained more or less the same. Science scores for the district are especially strong, with nearly 80 percent of eighth-graders proficient.
Turlock showed overall gains in English and bucked the regional trend with some standout scores in math. Turlock High students gained 6 percentage points across all math courses tested, said Superintendent Sonny Da Marto. In the district's elementary schools, Cunningham and Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy showed more math mastery.
The Stanislaus Union School District in north Modesto pushed its English scores up slightly, despite cuts in instructional days, curriculum director Susi Leslie noted. "This may not be a large gain," she said. "However, in light of the economic situation, an upward trend is a move in the right direction."
Sixth-graders were Salida's star performers, particularly looking at five-year trends, showed figures compiled by Superintendent Twila Tosh.
In Patterson, administrators saw slow and steady growth in English and math, said Veronica Miranda, assistant superintendent of educational services for Patterson Joint Unified. "However, we are not seeing the accelerated growth needed to reach the state's target," she said.
In Empire, Superintendent Bob Price said the district is happy with the growth in its scores, but he stressed the district has also made music programs and counseling at all grade levels high priorities.
"Test scores are a part, but not all, of what we do for children," he said.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2339.
Here are some sample test questions an average student would be expected to pass:
English: Featherweight is a compound word. You can tell from the two parts of the word that a featherweight is:
A. able to fly.
C. not heavy.
D. easy to find.
Math: Andrew had 15 pennies. He found some more. Now he has 33. Which number sentence could be used to find how many pennies he found?
A. 15 + =33
B. 15 + 33 =
C. - 33 = 15
D. - 15 = 33
English: Which sentence from a student essay on cats in ancient Egypt should be removed from the report because it has the least to do with the topic?
A. For one thing, cats helped people by keeping their homes free of mice, rats, and snakes.
B. Though I don't know what other pets the Egyptians had, cats were probably the most important.
C. That's why most Egyptian families had cats for good luck.
D. There were even laws against removing a cat from Egypt.
Math: Maurice talked on the telephone to two friends. He talked to Sherry for 1/4 hour, and to Gabriel for 1/3 hour. How much time did Maurice spend on the telephone?
A. 1/6 hour
B. 2/7 hour
C. 5/12 hour
D. 7/12 hour
Science: Moving water was the most important factor in forming which of these?
A. the Grand Canyon
B. San Andreas Fault
C. the Rocky Mountains
D. Mount St. Helens Volcano
Social studies: What led the newspapers to speak of "Bleeding Kansas" in 1856?
A. fighting between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces
B. attacks on job-seeking Irish immigrants
C. conflict between cattle ranchers and farmers
D. reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against Dred Scott
ON THE NET: http://starsamplequestions.org
Source: California Department of Education