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Contra Costa County sophomores varied widely in performance on California High School Exit Exam

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, August 24th, 2012 at 2:54 pm in Education, West Contra Costa school district.

The state’s release of California High School Exit Exam results this week marked the beginning of test score season.

On Friday, the state expects to release STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) test results, which show whether students in grades 2-11 were proficient in math, English and other subjects last year. In October, the state will release Academic Performance Index and Adequate Yearly Progress reports, which will show whether schools and districts met state academic growth targets, as well as federal targets under No Child Left Behind.

Some schools and districts in Contra Costa County consistently score above state averages on these tests, while others tend to score below.

Here’s a look at the percentage of sophomores that passed the English and math portions of the California High School Exit Exam in 2011 and 2012, along with the change, in Contra Costa County and the state:

District 2011 Math 2012 Math Change 2011 English 2012 English Change
Acalanes 97 97 Same 96 98 +2
Antioch 78 77 -1 80 81 +1
John Swett 79 78 -1 76 78 +2
Leadership* 91 91 Same 81 80 -1
Liberty 84 87 +3 87 89 +2
Martinez 89 89 Same 89 87 -2
Mt. Diablo 81 84 +3 82 84 +2
Pittsburg 73 79 +6 77 80 +3
San Ramon Valley 99 99 Same 99 98 -1
West Contra Costa 68 69 +1 69 74 +5
West Community* 52 68 +16 38 74 +36
Countywide 84 85 +1 84 84 +2
Statewide 83 84 +1 82 83 +1

*Note: Leadership and West Community are charter high schools in Richmond.

Based on this data, the Acalanes, Liberty, Martinez, Mt. Diablo and San Ramon Valley districts surpassed the state average this year, along with the Leadership charter. The Antioch, John Swett, Pittsburg and West Contra Costa district results fell below state averages, along with those of students at the West Community charter high school.

The Contra Costa County Board of Education recently denied the West Community charter’s renewal request, based on in part on questions about its academic achievement. However, the results show dramatic improvement from one year to the next, with the school’s 2012 sophomores performing virtually the same as their West County district peers.

West Contra Costa school Board President Charles Ramsey told me he was happy with improvement students in the district have made over the past six years, since the state began administering the test. However, he said the board was so unhappy with student achievement at Kennedy High in Richmond that it has put in a new administrative team there. Fifty-one percent of Kennedy’s sophomores passed the math portion of the high school exit exam and 58 percent passed the English portion.

“Kennedy’s got to get better,” he said. “It’s not working.”

You can see how your school and district did at

How do you think districts should help struggling students?

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33 Responses to “Contra Costa County sophomores varied widely in performance on California High School Exit Exam”

  1. Jim Says:

    Let’s remember that this test doesn’t really measure what many of us would think of as “readiness to exit high school”. After all, most students take it, and pass it, at the end of sophomore year, without any exposure to the last two years of the high school curriculum. When my younger son took it, he said that he counted only 6 questions in the Math portion that required any Algebra. Students could miss ALL of those questions and still pass the exit exam.

    So the poor performance of some schools show us just how many students in CA are struggling with 10th Grade benchmarks, let alone being ready to graduate with the skills that most of us associate with having a high school diploma.

  2. Doctor J Says:

    From the CDE: The SBE recently posted the power point presentation made by Dr. John Deasy, Superintendent of Los Angeles County School District, on agenda Item 6 at the May 2012 SBE meeting. Agenda Item 6 is regarding “A Conversation about the Future of Accountability in California, including the Academic Performance Index, and the School Accountability Report Card.” Dr. Deasy’s presentation, entitled “The School Review Process,” may be viewed under Item 6 or directly at this link:

  3. Doctor J Says:

    When you review Dr. Deasy’s PowerPoint, you will realize how disconnected Steven Lawrence really is from reality and how his ‘evaluation goals’ are fantasy without a basis in fact. The IRONY is the Steven Lawrence was present at the May State Board of Education meeting [Item 6 on Agenda and MDUSD was about 25 on the agenda] when this was presented, and yet has failed to mention it to anyone !!! DISCONNECTED !!

  4. Doctor J Says:

    My post on May 9, 2012 at 11:52 hit the nail on the head about Dr. Deasy’s PowerPoint & Lawrence’s lack of leadership: “Wow, LAUSD has 15 key school performance framework evaluators. Evaluates all schools into five tiers. “Enusre school-site stakeholders take ownership of the school improvement process” — unlike MDUSD which essentially excludes parents or only gives them a head nodding opportunity. PSC–Public School Choice for lowest tier schools. Focus: Academic Achievement; Leadership that supports achievement; Culture and Infrastructure.”

  5. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Lawrence appeared to show leadership when he first came to the district and pushed the bond measure along with solar, created SASS and required all 10 PI schools to develop improvement plans — not just those eligible for SIGs.
    The problem is that there has been no presentation to the board since those plans were developed two years ago — about whether or not they are working. Apparently, consultants have prepared annual reports, but they haven’t been shared with the public.
    Also, the district has been mentioned in numerous recent press releases (which were inexplicably not sent to the CC Times) raving about its solar internships and solar savings. Yet, there has been no board presentation about this either.
    When I visited the Contra Costa County Office of Education recently, I saw a large display that showed how much the county is saving with its solar project. Although SunPower has promised to make this information available to the public online in MDUSD, so far, it has not done so, to my knowledge. The public deserves to see if the district is saving the money it claimed it would.

  6. Doctor J Says:

    First appearances can be deceiving — SASS is NOT what Lawrence said it was going to be.

  7. Doctor J Says:

    While Steve Lawrence keeps the API estimates secret, you can bet he will start the “spin” tonight — one big item to look for is the SIG scores. Remember when the CDE and Feds shut down the SIG grants for MDUSD’s non-compliance in “increasing instructional time” — Rose Lock had no plan to implement longer school days during the three year grant as Lawrence and her had promised. CDE & the Feds “forced” the CAP “Corrective Action Plan” a year ago and MDUSD increased the school day length — only because money stopped flowing !! And Lawrence made it clear the longer school day won’t continue after the grant ends — they have to pay the teachers for the extra hour of learning a day !! Imagine that ! Research shows the longer school day will significantly increase the learning, and thus the test scores should reflect it ! So put on your “watch list” the Cohort 1 SIG Schools: Bel Air, Rio Vista, Shore Acres, Glenbrook [oh sorry, Lawrence & Whitmarsh closed that school]. If we see a big increase, we should congratulate CDE & the Feds for forcing Lawrence and Lock to live up to the SIG requirements !!

  8. Doctor J Says:

    Others to “watch” as API scores emerge: *Bill Morones @ YVHS: appointed Director of SASS Secondary WITHOUT a proven track record of school achievement success at multiple schools in several districts; was he successful at YVHS ? *Gretchen Jacobs @ Sun Terrace: Did she get a bad rap or will her API scores show what a horrible principal she was ? Should Lawrence have kept her in the district ? *Kate McClatchy @ Mount Diablo High — will her API scores also be labeled “ToiletGATE” ? *Sue Brothers @ Clayton Valley High — will her first year as a principal “proved” she is an instructional leader or show she just rides the coattails of Steven Lawrence ? * Any double digit API declines, you have to wonder why those principals are still around this year.

  9. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I would add Cohort 2 SIG recipients Meadow Homes Elementary and Oak Grove MS to this list, along with El Dorado MS — which took in a large number of former Glenbrook students — and Wren Avenue Elementary, which took in a large number of former Holbrook students, along with Sun Terrace.
    Although Meadow Homes and Oak Grove haven’t received the SIG money yet, the district began preparing for the grants by replacing the previous principals with new principals expected to implement the grants.
    Mary Louise Newling has ambitious plans, but wants to reduce the campus population to implement them.
    Lisa Murphy Oates was blasted by a substitute and former teacher for failing to maintain adequate discipline at the school, which they said severely impacted student learning. Also, a parent pulled her student out after he was bullied and she felt the school and administration did not do enough to address the problem and did not act quickly enough. Although Jon Campopiano has been sent in as a vice principal this year, the school remains under Murphy Oates’ leadership.
    This school also saw an influx of Glenbrook MS students, as did El Dorado MS. It will be interesting to see if El Dorado was able to maintain its API score, despite this influx of previously lower-scoring students. Oak Grove, on the other hand, was lower-scoring than Glenbrook. Did the Glenbrook students help to marginally increase scores there?
    Holbrook, which the district closed along with Glenbrook, scored higher than both Sun Terrace and Wren Avenue. Did those students help increase scores at Sun Terrace and Wren?

  10. Doctor J Says:

    @#9 Theresa, excellent commentary. Especially since Meadow Homes had a 58 point gain under Toby — what did Mary Louise do in 2012 ? The $64 question is why the SASS coaches don’t seem to have a positive impact on these schools. Rose Lock hand picks the SASS coaches for school principal coaching assignments. Yet, when we read the SASS School Support Administrators [coaches] job descriptions we don’t seem to see the job descriptions being implemented. Since Rose Lock took upon herself to remove the School Support Administrators from oversight of her Secondary and Elementary Directors, apparently she has done little to supervise these SSA’s to make sure they are performing their jobs. However, I guarantee you, they will have a fun potluck this afternoon while everyone is on pins and needles about the API scores — BTW, who is bringing the Ptomaine Salad ?

  11. Doctor J Says:

    Last 5 years of API scores:
    Year Supt API Increase/Decrease
    2012 Lawrence ???
    2011 Lawrence 2
    2010 Nichol 11
    2009 McHenry 21
    2008 McHenry 8

    Can Lawrence prove himself as an Educational Leader with only a single digit increase ? Before he got here, there were two years in a row of double digit increases.

  12. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I received an email from Trustee Cheryl Hansen, in which she says the board is moving ahead with superintendent goals without having a strategic plan. She believes the two should go hand-in-hand, but is frustrated by the board’s failure to move forward with the strategic plan.
    The Oak Grove whistle-blowers and Mt. Diablo HS teachers who voted No Confidence in Kate McClatchy have also pointed out that some teachers — who are tasked with improving test scores — don’t feel supported by administrators.
    Could the district do a better job of communicating its goals and coaching school administrators — so that they, in turn, could do a better job of coaching and supporting teachers and other staff members?

  13. Wait a Minute Says:

    Theresa @5,

    The leadership that Stevie Lawrence asppeared to show in his first months here regarding pushing the Bond and Solar is undoubtedly WHAT he was hired to do at the behest of Egohart and Chevron Sherry.

    This was going to directly benefit EberMarsh (just didn’t work out for Sherry and her employer Chevron because of the CCC Times) but The Gary was able to use it to leverage a job as “VP of Solar” with Lawrence’s good buddy Seward Schreder Construction of the Schreder empire.

    As far as helping the children which should have been goals# 1,2,3…… Lawrence and his minions and creations have been a dismal failure and like in West Sac, the damage that he has done will take a long time to reverse ONCE HE IS GONE.

  14. Doctor J Says:

    The API dam is starting to leak. Travelocity reports that Lisa Murphy Oates [Oak Grove] and Kate McClatchy [MDHS] are booking one way trips to Siberia. 🙂 Oh what I would give to be a mosca on Lawrence’s wall.

  15. Wait a Minute Says:

    I forgot to say that Paul Strange was also key to the hiring of Stevie Lawrence so there is undoubtedly some connection there. I wonder if Poseiden Paul has any relationship with someone on Lawrences wife’s side of the family since she is from the area.

    Or possibly Strange wanted to steer legal contracts to people like Matt Juhl-Darlington who wasn’t qualified to be bond counsel so he associated-in an LA attorney to do the actual work while he gets his cut?

  16. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Dr. J.,

    Any word in general terms on how bad the results are? such a shame that Lawrence won’t have to address them at tonights meeting. He gets to kick the can down the road a bit once again.

  17. Wait a Minute Says:

    He can run but he can’t hide (it for long)!

  18. Anon Says:

    I think we need to wait to see what they are before we jump to conclusions.
    I am one of the most critical of the district. We can’t damn them on this until we know.

  19. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence has kept the results in a tight circle — so leaks are difficult. Last year SASS distributed them to the schools and I expect the same this year. I would bet that SASS has them now or soon and will be distributing them shortly to the schools. I am not sure the Guy Moore has seen them yet. Rumors are that there are some really bad results and some really good ones too. I am predicting the SIG schools, Cohort 1 will do well based on the increased school days ‘FORCED’ on Lawrence and Rose Lock by CDE & the Fed’s withholding the SIG money because MDUSD was caught in non-compliance by the SIG audit. National data would support that. I expect Sun Terrace, Oak Grove and Mt. Diablo High to not do well. Based on Bill Morones poor track record, I doubt he will do well. Sue Brothers is anyone’s guess, but being her first year as a principal, and really poor track record as a district administrator, I would doubt she will beat last year’s CVHS score of 0 API increase. The district based on the SIG schools performance will bump up a few points, but not too many and most likely single digits, and so Lawrence will not even be close to either Gary McHenry or Dick Nicol’s performances in the last 5 years.

  20. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It will also be interesting to see if the new EL Master Plan makes a difference.
    Although it’s being implemented slowly, the district has been keenly aware that it needed to improve in this area during the past year and it’s been a board priority.

  21. Doctor J Says:

    What schools would you expect to benefit most from the EL Masterplan during 2011-12 ? I guess you can then take a look at the subgroups. But remember Delta View Elem made its massive gains in 2007-08 [64] and 2008-2009 [82] before any EL Masterplan, and the next two years had API losses of 5 [Petersen] and 2 [Baum]. Also last year, 2010-2011, Meadow Homes made a massive 58 point gain before implementation of any EL Masterplan. If the EL Masterplan makes a difference, I don’t think you will see it yet. Right now, in my opinion, it looks more like “increased learning time” is the biggest factor. Delta View did it by using Board Math and squeezed out more instructional time during the regular school day. I am not saying the EL Masterplan isn’t important, but just its affect on API, if any, is too soon to tell.

  22. g Says:

    It would appear that a good way to get moved up to Dent is to fall flat on your face in your job at the school level–weird how that works in this district, huh?

    Not so weird if you consider that the old board, under the slimy influence of its legal department, and desperate for a “yes-man,” hired a failure from outside to (ostensibly) run the place!

  23. Doctor J Says:

    A trickle is now becoming a stream of leaks.
    Bill Morones did worse than his predecessor and gets promoted to Director of Secondary ! Go figure.
    YVHS 2012 -1 N Schoolwide N Subgroups
    YVHS 2011 +7 Y Schoolwide N Subgroups
    Kate McClatchy had a 31 point swing in her second year as Principal.
    MDHS 2012 -7 N Schoolwide N Subgroups
    MDHS 2011 +24 Y Schoolwide Y Subgroups
    Sue Brothers finishes six points worse than her predecessor. Will she get promoted ?
    CVHS 2012 -6 N Schoolwide N Subgroups
    CVHS 2011 0 N Schoolwide N Subgroups

  24. Anon Says:

    Lawrence should be thrown out on his ass. It isn’t working Steve.

  25. Anon Says:

    And just to think they want to raise taxes for education….stating most of the money will go to education. I won’t vote to pay more until there is accountability! I am so sick of this $hit. It’s driving me crazy how morally wrong these people are. (Lawrence and company)

  26. Anon Says:

    Theresa, are you covering the meeting tonight?

  27. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, but I am only now just getting going online. I’ve been videotaping on http://www.qik/tharrington and will upload videos to

  28. Anon Says:

    So what crimes did the Unholy Trio plus Two commit tonight?

  29. Doctor J Says:

    So they cut the internet feed to stymie you, did they now ?

  30. Theresa Harrington Says:

    There were no unholy crimes and they didn’t cut the internet. I just was focused on taking notes and videotaping, so didn’t get going online in a timely manner.

  31. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a spreadsheet that compares county high school STAR scores:

  32. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s an interesting Times guest commentary blasting public education, but pointing out that most people think their home schools are not to blame:

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added a new blog post, which shows STAR score growth (or decline) in Contra Costa districts from 2011-12, along with a comparison of 2012 high school scores:

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