Although California's school children are making marginal progress on standardized tests, more than 40 percent still failed to meet state goals in English and math last year, according to results released Friday.
The Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR, results released by the California Department of Education showed a 3 percentage point increase in the number of students who are competent in English language arts and a 1 percentage point increase in math from 2011 to 2012.
The new results continue the slow, steady growth of the past decade. When standardized testing began in 2003, only 35 percent of students scored at or above the state-mandated competency goals in both subjects. Now those numbers have grown to 57 percent in English and 51 percent in math, said Tom Torlakson, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, in a prepared statement.
By comparison, Contra Costa County students surpassed state averages last year, with 63.3 percent scoring at or above grade-level proficiency in English and 56.5 percent in math. But scores in individual districts and schools varied widely, with 13 districts surpassing the state averages and four falling below them.
"As pleased as I am by the great progress many students are making, the deep school budget cuts of recent years make it ever less likely these gains will continue," Torlakson said. "Preventing further cuts and beginning to restore what's been lost are essential to helping every student learn and prepare for the future."
Students in grades 2-11 are ranked according to one of five levels of performance for each subject: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic, and far below basic. California's goal is for all students to attain a proficient or higher level, according to the State Board of Education.
The biggest district gain in Contra Costa County was achieved by the Liberty Union High district. Students there surpassed their peers statewide on the English portion of the test, improving by 7 percentage points, which was attributed to quarterly assessments of students' progress, said Mary Vinciguerra, assistant superintendent of educational services.
But the district still had the lowest proficiency rates in math, at just 29.5 percent. Still, that was an improvement over 2011. Vinciguerra said the high school district's math scores should not be compared to districts that include elementary and middle schools, and added that the district's math scores more closely resemble those of other high schools.
The Moraga district had the highest percentage of students ranked as proficient in English countywide, with 93.3 percent. Orinda district students outshined their counterparts in math, with 92.1 percent scoring at or above proficiency in the subject.
The West Contra Costa district had the lowest percentage of students who attained competency in English countywide, and Superintendent Bruce Harter said schools there are placing a stronger emphasis on writing this year. Harter said the district's middle schools made gains in math, after focusing intensely on that area.
In Antioch, teacher coaches are working to improve scores on several campuses, said Mary McCarthy, director of educational services.
Pittsburg's scores rose, but have room for improvement, said Superintendent Linda Rondeau. Yet, she said Foothill Elementary scored 55 percent in English language arts, up from 38 percent the year before, a remarkable gain.
"We're still beating the state in terms of growth," she said. "We're moving at a faster pace, but unfortunately we're still behind."
Staff writers Paul Burgarino, Rowena Coetsee and Eve Mitchell contributed to this report.
Acalanes 87.2 57.5
Antioch 49.2 40.4
Brentwood 69.1 68.4
Byron 64.4 65.5
Canyon 78.8 71.7
John Swett 50.3 43.
Knightsen 61.7 67.9
Lafayette 87.6 88
Liberty 60.4 29.5
Martinez 69 65.6
Moraga 93.3 90.6
Mt. Diablo 59.4 53.1
Oakley 61 57.3
Orinda 93.1 92.1
Pittsburg 44.3 43.5
San Ramon 86.1 79.4
Walnut Creek 83.4 82.7
West Contra Costa 44.2 38.1
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY 63.3 56.5%
CALIFORNIA 57.2 51.5
Source: California Department of Education
Detailed results, including school scores, are available at http://www.cde.ca.gov.
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