Education

Some Modesto area schools improve test scores. But many students are falling short.

JOAN BARNETT LEE / jlee@modbee.com James C. Enochs High School at 3201 Sylvan Avenue in Modesto is pictured on Thursday afternoon (12-8-11).
JOAN BARNETT LEE / jlee@modbee.com James C. Enochs High School at 3201 Sylvan Avenue in Modesto is pictured on Thursday afternoon (12-8-11). Modesto Bee

Local school districts were pleased with improved test results at some schools, but the English language and math scores at many schools in Stanislaus County were disappointing.

In Modesto’s largest school district, about 31 percent of elementary school students met or exceeded standards for reading and writing skills and 22 percent were proficient in math. Those scores on the statewide assessment tests were about 20 percentage points below the state results for English language arts and math.

Enochs High School posted the best improvement in test scores, going from 60.6% to 74.5% in English language and from 32.5% to 43.5% percent in math. That is compared to statewide scores of 50.9% in language and 40.1% in math.

Johansen High School was up 12.5 percentage points in language, and twice as many Johansen students met or exceeded the math standard. Still, fewer than 20% of Johansen 11th-graders were meeting the standards in math.

“We had 12 of our schools that had growth in (English language arts) and math, which is outstanding,” said Becky Fortuna, spokeswoman for Modesto City Schools. “We are proud of the growth many schools achieved and will look for ways to replicate their success at other sites.”

At 17 schools in the district, or about half the campuses in MCS, fewer than 25% of students were meeting either the English language or math standards. Fortuna said 85 percent of students in the district are classified as socioeconomically disadvantaged, with many English learners and children from low-income neighborhoods.

Other MCS schools with better test scores were: Robertson Road Elementary, with 34% of students scoring well in math, up from 22%, and 39% meeting the language standards, a 2 percentage point increase; Beard Elementary, up 8% in math and 6% in language arts; and Elliott Alternative Education Center, which increased language scores 7%.

MCS schools with some of the highest scores were: Lakewood Elementary with 78.67% meeting language arts standards, though a 2.61% drop, and 66% meeting math standards, a 2.87% decline; Sonoma Elementary, where 67% of students met or exceeded language standards (up 3%); Enslen Elementary, going from 53% to 59% in language arts; and Downey High School with 51% meeting language standards.

Ten other elementary schools in MCS, as well as Mark Twain Junior High, also improved their test scores. Rose Avenue Elementary declined 7.6% in language and 3.6% in math.

Statewide, test scores for language arts and math were up a percentage point. The state’s standardized tests to measure skills in math and reading, writing and communication are administered to students in third to eighth grades and to high school juniors.

Tony Thurmond, state superintendent of schools, was not overly impressed with the slight improvement in test scores in California schools, and noted the percentage of students of color not meeting standards hasn’t changed.

In some grades, students of color scored lower than in the previous year, reinforcing an urgent need to close the achievement gap, Thurmond said.

“Education equity should mean equity for all students and right now, we are not there,” Thurmond said.

Advocates renewed calls for state action to improve the education outcomes in poorer school districts. “The biggest question is what is leadership in Sacramento going to do about persistent failure in public schools, particularly in high-poverty communities and for our students of color, English learners and children with disabilities,” said Bill Lucia, president of EdVoice.

At other Modesto schools, Prescott Junior High declined 5% in language arts and math scores were down 4.46%, Somerset Middle School was up 4.65% in math and Sanders Elementary improved 7% in math.

In other local districts, Riverbank Unified improved its scores with a 3.19% increase in language and 5% increase in math. Ceres Unified was down 4.34% in language skills.

Stanislaus Elementary was down 10.7% in math and 3.6% in language arts and Woodrow Elementary dropped 6.36% in math.

In Turlock, scores improved at Julien Elementary (5.25% in language, 6.78% in math) and Cunningham Elementary (4.68% language, 7.3% math). Dutcher Middle School dropped 6.6% in language and 3.5% in math, and Turlock High School was down 5.12% in language. Chatom Elementary declined 6.6% in language.

Denair’s Gratton Elementary improved 10.53% in language arts and 7% in math.

Some of the biggest swings were recorded at charter schools. Riverbank Language Academy improved 8.32% in math, with 54% of students now proficient in language skills, and was up 6% in math. Hart-Ransom Academic Charter also improved by 7.7% in language and 8.17% in math, while Aspire Summit Charter Academy in Modesto dropped 16.9% in language and 8.61% in math. Aspire Vanguard College Preparatory was down 7.74% in math and Connecting Waters Charter was down 6.88% in math.

Keyes Learning Charter improved math scores by 8.52% but fell 3.81% in language arts. Hickman Elementary was up 11% in math.

Modesto City Schools said it has adopted goals for improving student achievement and expanded after-school education. An intervention program called RISE began in September to assist students who need extra help in English language skills to get on track with grade level standards.

Fortuna said the higher math scores at Robertson Road school, where the students meeting standards jumped from 22% to 34%, were attributed to a grant that extended the school day and gave students more instructional time. The grant funding has expired.

District officials hope that all-day kindergarten, which debuted this fall, will give young students a better start with reading and writing.

MCS has also instituted a new professional development program for staff and employees.

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