September 29, 2008

School Board Hears About Test Scores

By Miranda C.R. White

REDLANDS - Members of the Redlands school board discussed two major issues at their meeting Tuesday - standardized test results and the 2008-2009 budget.

Scott Bohlender, assistant superintendent of educational services, gave a presentation on the district's 2008 STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) test results.

"We have good news to present to you this evening," Bohlender said.

He showed the Redlands Unified School District Continual School Improvement Model, a cycle teachers go through every year to figure out how to improve teaching for the year to make test results better.

"It focuses on aspects of academic life to help our students grow," Bohlender said. "We use these test results to make instructional decisions."

Every year teachers collaborate to check students' progress, intervene with individual students and plan to improve test scores.

Bohlender first went over the English and language arts California Standards Tests.

Bohlender showed graphs covering testing over eight-year periods. In elementary school, Bohlender said there have been large improvements in fourth- and fifth-grade English and language arts scores.

"There are two types of scenarios we want," Bohlender said. One is having a large increase in the number of proficient students over time, the other is having larger improvements in more recent years.

"Next year we must achieve 46 percent of students who are proficient in ELA (English and Language Arts)," Bohlender said. "There are growth targets every year."

He said the federal government expected the district to be at 35.2 percent in 2008, and the district was well above that line.

In the "below basic" and "far below basic" levels, Bohlender said the district wants to see the percentage of students decrease.

In English and language arts for middle school, Bohlender said all the hard work has been paying off over time.

"We've met our percentages and we'll be shooting to reach above the measurable objectives in 2009," Bohlender said.

In the middle schools, there were only slight declines in the percentages of students at the "below basic" and "far below basic" levels.

In the high schools, Bohlender said percentages of students in the "below basic" and "far below basic" levels in mathematics are increasing. Bohlender said the district will try to focus on individual student needs.

"We've seen growth in high school students who are passing the California high school exit exams," Bohlender said.

He said the district is focusing on motivating the students to pass their high school exit exams.

In elementary mathematics over the last seven years there has been tremendous growth - almost 20 points of growth, Bohlender said.

In "below basic" and "far below basic" levels in elementary mathematics, Bohlender said the growth was exactly what the district needed to see.

"Instruction is getting higher and teachers are mediating for students who have needs," Bohlender said.

Middle school mathematics scores over the past seven years barely reached the levels they needed to achieve, and the percentages of "below basic" and "far below basic" middle school mathematics students were a bit high.

High school math scores have slightly fallen, Bohlender said.

"Our high schools really took this seriously," Bohlender said.

School board president Donna West said she was happy with the way the middle school math scores have improved and she was glad that the district is requiring eighth-grade algebra.

School board member Neal Waner was also happy with the results.

"These are terrific statistics, something we should all be proud of," Waner said.

Some not-so-good news came from Lori Rhodes, superintendent of the Redlands Unified School District.

The state finalized a budget for the schools, and the district will lose a lot of money that usually comes from the state every year.

Rhodes said the state will defer $2.8 billion that education statewide would receive from February to April because state officials are saying the school districts are overpaid.

E-mail Miranda C.R. White at [email protected]

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