SSD students outperform their peers in state – again!

The state Department of Education released testing results Aug. 24, and for the second consecutive year students in the Sunnyvale School District outperformed the state averages and reflected the county averages of their peers in English Language Arts and mathematics.

California updated its standards and built matching assessments to shift student learning toward more complex skills. In just the second year of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), District students achieved gains on tests designed to gauge preparation for college and career.

Overall, 57% of our students in grades 3-8 met or exceeded standards in English Language Arts, which reflects 4% growth over the prior year. In math, which has been particularly challenging for students under the new standards, 54% of students met or exceeded standards, compared to 37% at the state level. This reflects 3% growth for SSD over the prior year. A 3-5% increase or decrease is considered statistically significant.

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, Mala Ahuja said the results are attributable to the districtwide focus on tracking student growth, a robust system of local assessments and a culture of collaboration across the district.

“In addition to academic focus, we believe in supporting the development of the whole child with an increased emphasis on social-emotional learning, building strong family-school connections and culturally responsive teaching,” she said.

Through testing and observation, our teachers assess student progress frequently so they can see right away how children are learning, and alter teaching methods or provide interventions accordingly. This benefits students who need extra help, as well as those who are ready for greater challenges.

Teachers meet regularly to evaluate student progress, share best practices, and plan strategies for students in need of intervention or enrichment throughout the school year. This is accomplished through Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), which is a core practice prevalent at all school sites.

The district had a concentrated focus on English Language Development (ELD) for our students in 2015-16, hosting professional development for all teachers around the new ELA/ELD framework to ensure high-quality instruction for English learners. This focused work has been a contributing factor that led to a 3% increase in Language Arts scores for English Learners.

A continued area of focus going into the 2016-17 school year will be on math. The new Common Core State Standards require students to have a deep understanding of mathematical concepts and the ability to explain their mathematical thinking. We will be providing professional development to our teachers, focused on the mathematical practices that support student success.

“We recognize that one year does not make a trend but it helps us know that the hard work put in by our teachers is reflected in positive student outcomes,” Ahuja added.

Compared to 2014-15 baseline results, the district-wide data shows students meeting or exceeding standards in English Language Arts/Literacy increased by 4% and Mathematics scores are up by 2%. In a deeper look at the data, we were pleased to find both boys and girls were performing on par in math. In English Language Arts, we have girls outperforming boys by 10%. This is an area we will look into more closely to gauge possible causes and analyze more specifics of the areas where the discrepancy emerges.

“While we celebrate the successes, we definitely recognize there is still work to be done,” Ahuja said. “We will collectively work to advance efforts to close the ‘opportunity gap’ among subgroups by providing the necessary instruction, interventions, and resources for our English learners, students with disabilities, and our socio-economically disadvantaged students.”

The District’s Local Control Accountability Plan, aligned with District Leadership Goals, outlines the specific steps being taken to address this. One key addition is a district focus on early literacy over the next three years. This supports research and a great deal of evidence that shows focusing on early childhood is critically important if we want to create equal opportunities for all students.

For 2016 school, district, county and state standardized test results, go to caaspp.cde.ca.gov, and then click on “English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics.” On the next page, click on the blue “Search Smarter Balanced Results.”

Article by Assistant Superintendent Mala Ahuja; Director Sarah Tellez, and Communications Coordinator Alia Wilson.

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