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A closer look at STAR scores in lowest-performing schools

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, August 16th, 2010 at 7:45 pm in Contra Costa County, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Shelly Meron, Theresa Harrington, West Contra Costa school district.

By Theresa Harrington

The state released 2010 STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) program results today, showing overall improvement, despite falling far short of student proficiency goals.

Here is a sampling of proficiency scores for East Bay districts. The first number is for reading and writing and the second score is for math:

Reading/writing Math


Acalanes 84% 58%
Antioch 47% 38%
Brentwood 64% 65%
Byron 58% 59%
Canyon 87% 70%
John Swett 46% 37%
Knightsen 64% 71%
Lafayette 84% 85%
Liberty 51% 20%
Martinez 62% 62%
Moraga 89% 89%
Mt. Diablo 57% 50%
Oakley 53% 49%
Pittsburg 38% 40%
San Ramon 84% 78%
Walnut Creek 81% 81%
West Contra Costa 39% 35%

Reading/writing Math
Alameda 67% 58%
Albany 75% 75%
Berkeley 59% 52
Castro Valley 70% 64%
Dublin 73% 68%
Emery 37% 35%
Fremont 73% 67%
Hayward 39% 35%
Livermore 66% 57%
New Haven 54% 47%
Newark 50% 44%
Oakland 41% 44%
Piedmont 87% 80%
Pleasanton 83% 72%
San Leandro 44% 35%
San Lorenzo 43% 37%
Sunol Glen 80% 80%

In Contra Costa County, two school districts have been singled out by the state because of persistently low achievement in nine schools.

They are the Mt. Diablo district (for Bel Air, Meadow Homes, Rio Vista and Shores Acres elementary schools; and for Glenbrook and Oak Grove middle schools) and the West Contra Costa district (for Lincoln Elementary, Helms Middle School and DeAnza High School).

Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence sent me the following statement regarding the test results:

“STAR testing is an annual standardized testing instrument which allows public school districts to assess student academic progress, strengths, weakness and determine areas of focus for continued improvement. Despite the impact of the State cuts to education, Mt. Diablo USD is pleased to report that through the efforts of parents, teachers, administrators, and support personnel, we showed strong improvement in second through eighth grade math scores while maintaining our scores in other subject areas. 

While we are proud of all the schools that showed gains, we want to highlight some shining examples of what we can be accomplish if we continue to work together:

Elementary:  Ayers, Cambridge, Fair Oaks, Holbrook, Monte Gardens, Shore Acres, Silverwood, Sun Terrace, Ygnacio Valley

Middle School: El Dorado, Foothill, Glenbrook, Oak Grove, Pine Hollow, Pleasant Hill, Riverview

High School: College Park and Mt. Diablo

Alternative Education:  Sunrise, Crossroads, Summit 

In order to build on this positive news, we are in the process of reviewing district-wide goals and objectives.  Guided by our overarching goal of ensuring that all students graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in their chosen path, these goals and objectives will help us focus all time, talent and resources on key goals for our students.     

Student test data is important information for our all schools, as it guides professional development, focuses collaboration time for teaching staff, and ensures the organization is in a mode of continual improvement. However, I want to stress that test scores, while critically important, are only one measure of student achievement. The Mt. Diablo USD is committed to help all students achieve their academic and social, emotional potential, and to measure the latter we observe student interaction, look for involvement in activities, and interested, engaged students in classroom and school activities.”

In reviewing the test results, I see that math scores for second- through fifth-graders definitely improved. However, scores for sixth-through eighth-grades were not as stellar.

Here’s a breakdown showing the 2009 math score followed by 2010:

2nd gr: 66 to 68%
3rd gr: 65 to 69%
4th gr: 69 to 74%
5th gr: 59 to 65%
6th gr: 49 to 49%
7th gr: 48 to 42% (Algebra: 52 to 51%)
8th gr: 35 to 10% (gen); 43 to 38% (Algebra); 55 to 49% (geometry)

You can find complete 2010 STAR test results here: You can compare these to 2009 results found here:

Here are the California Standards Test Summary scores for the district’s six lowest-achieving schools. The 2009 score is followed by the 2010 score and + or – to show if it went up or down. (Lawrence highlighted three: Shore Acres, Glenbrook and Oak Grove.)

Elementary schools were tested in English, math and science. Middle school scores also include history/social studies.

2009 to 2010 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced:
Bel Air Elmentary in Bay Point:
English 20.9% to 21.2% (+)
Math 41.3% to 40.5% (-)
Science 15.7% to 11.5% (-)

Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord
English 23.3% to 24.9% (+)
Math 39.1% to 41.9% (+)
Science 31.1% to 15.1% (-)

Rio Vista Elementary in Bay Point:
English: 29.0% to 25.6% (-)
Math 38.8% to 42.7% (+)
Science 41.8% to 8.7% (-)

Shore Acres Elementary in Bay Point
English 18.0% to 23.9% (+)
Math 32.2% to 41.6% (+)
Science 21.8% to 13.2% (-)

Glenbrook Middle School in Concord:
English 35.0% to 35.8% (+)
Math 9.4% to 17.7% (+)
History 24.1% to 32.9% (+)
Science 27.3% to 42.9% (+)

Oak Grove Middle School in Concord:
English 27.0% to 29.6% (+)
Math: 20.1% to 16.9% (-)
History 18.3% to 26.9 (+)
Science 26.3% to 24.0% (-)

The school board recently approved reform plans for each of the above schools. The Meadow Homes plan focuses more time on English and less on science and social studies.

Although some parents complained about this approach, Lawrence defended it, saying data shows students need to master the English language before they can absorb science and social studies in textbooks. However, the data above shows that science scores went down at some schools where English scores went up.

The parents who complained about cutting science said it is a “hands-on” activity that engages kids and makes them want to come to school. The district has submitted applications to receive School Improvement Grants for reform at Bel Air, Rio Vista and Shore Acres elementary schools and at Glenbrook Middle School.

It did not seek grants for its reform plans at Meadow Homes and Oak Grove middle schools, in part because the grants would have required the district to replace the principals at those sites.

West Contra Costa’s lowest performing schools were a mixed bag, according to reporter Shelly Meron, who covers that district. Here are their scores, showing percent of students proficient:

Lincoln Elementary School in Richmond:
English 21.3% to 18.4% (-)
Math: 24.4% to 39.5% (+)
Science 7.8% to 16.9% (+)

Helms Middle School in San Pablo:
English 22.8% to 26.7% (+)
Math: 22.0% to 21.6% (-)
History: 14.2% to 16.4% (+)
Science 18.1% to 20.2% (+)

DeAnza Senior High School in Richmond:
English: 23.8% to 28.4% (+)
Math: 3.0% to 4.9% (+)
History: 16.6% to 19.1% (+)
Lilfe Science: 30.2% to 29.6% (-)
Advanced sciences: 19.3% to 24.9% (+)

Meron interviewed Nia Rashidchi, assistant superintendent for educational services, about the schools.

Lincoln Elementary saw a slight drop In English, but growth in math and science.

“Their overall proficiency was down a little bit,” Rashidchi said. “We’ve done some very significant things this year to address that. We had a very targeted summer school this year with half the population from every teacher’s classroom. We basically have a new staff.”

This reform is part of the “turnaround” effort that is included in its School Improvement Grant application.

“(Students have) been in school for three weeks (at Lincoln),” Rashidchi said. “We will have an extended day, a full day kindergarten, extended learning center program (an intervention program focused on literacy and math).”

Rashidchi said Helms Middle school “had some growth — slow and steady growth. But some is better than no growth. We have new leadership there this year. The teachers are dedicated to making sure that even though they’re on that (persistently low performing) list, they’re making strides.”

A group of Helms teachers signed up to be part of the national board certification program. This summer, staff has been working to plan day-to-day instruction through collaboration, “so that everybody is on the same page — the alignment piece being really important. We’re making sure that their assessment, pacing guides, curriculum, (are) all lined up across departments and grade levels.”

Rashidchi said DeAnza has had slight growth as well.

“Moving in the right direction, slow and steady,” she said. “But kids need more than slow and steady.”

De Anza also has new leadership.

“Our teachers and administrators are dedicated to our students, and honing their skills to make sure they’re effective with our students,” Rashidchi said. “We’ve got limited resources. We’ve been hard hit. It impacts us with larger class size, decreasing programs that we know have been effective. Regardless of that, we still have dedicated professionals who are working hard to make students prepared for graduation and life beyond graduation.”

Are you satisifed with you school district’s test scores?

Staff writer Shelly Meron contributed to this report.

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3 Responses to “A closer look at STAR scores in lowest-performing schools”

  1. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence can put lipstick on it, but its still ugly. The API scores on August 31 will tell more of the story. But it looks like MDUSD will add a few more to it record six schools on the “persistently underachieving list”.

  2. Realia Says:

    It’s no secret that STAR tests are no-stakes tests for students. In other words, the test has no bearing on their grades or ability to progress to the next grade level. The tests are optional. Savvy parents opt their kids out of the testing. Aware students know the test doesn’t mean anything to them so they draw patterns on the Scantron test form. What the schools are left with is a skewed snapshot of student performance. Based on these worthless test scores, districts shuffle administrators around, close schools, and, if SB 1285 passes, can use the data to lay off teachers. My 11th and 12th grade students do not forget to know how to read when they reach my classroom; they never learned – one must ask how such students are allowed to progress despite lacking basic skills. When the education system is evaluated by test results, the test should mean something to the students. I’d like to see CA Exit Exam results used to evaluate high schools, and something with similar consequences used to evaluate elementary and middle schools. Until then, we are stuck with worthless test results that have consequences only for adults (except the adults most responsible – “parents”).

  3. Doctor J Says:

    Not a peep from MDUSD Board members about commenting on the STAR results, even after Theresa’s stellar analysis. What is the plan for improvement ?

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