August 20, 2008

Area Test Scores Rise

By Wendy Leung

The unveiling of state testing results Thursday showed area students maintained or improved their academic proficiencies, allowing many schools to begin the semester on a positive note.

Results of the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program - which measured almost 5million California students on grades 2 through 11 in English language arts, math, science and social science - also showed statewide gains.

"It's a clear signal, by any definition, that public education in California is on the right track," said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, who released the results at Washington Accelerated Elementary School in Pasadena.

Statewide, 46percent of students scored at or above proficient in English language arts, up from 43percent last year and 35percent from 2003. In math, 43percent scored at or above proficient, up from 41percent last year and 35percent in 2003.

The Ontario-based Chaffey Joint Union High School District saw a 4percent to 7percent improvement in all four subjects from the previous year.

Superintendent Mat Holton attributed the improvement to intervention programs that targeted struggling students.

"We're excited about our recent scores," Holton said. "We have implemented intervention across the board and one of the things we really worked on increasing this year is the reading intervention program."

Although San Bernardino County saw proficiency growth in certain grade levels and in algebra, its average still lags behind the state.

One of the biggest challenges for California schools is narrowing the gap between underperforming groups and their white and Asian counterparts. In English language arts, the achievement gap between white and black students has been at a standstill since 2003.

"The achievement gap is real, it's stark, it's persistent and absolutely must be closed," O'Connell said. "We have today a moral imperative, a social imperative and an economic imperative to close the achievement gap."

The Pomona Unified School District saw its achievement gap narrowed with progress among English language learners at all grade levels. The district also saw higher proficiency rates at all of its high schools and the majority of elementary schools.

"Like the state, we still have an achievement gap, and that's a great concern," said district spokesman Tim McGillivray.

"One of the areas that we improved is the English language learners, and that's crucial to closing the gap. That was a real victory for us."

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