SMUSD Lauds Its Education Scores

With the formal release of the state’s CAASPP scores, San Marino Unified School District brought its four principals out for a press conference extolling the success of their students.
Superintendent Alex Cherniss, in introducing the principals, credited the district’s students for taking advantage of being in what is routinely one of the best ranked unified school districts in the state. He characterized SMUSD as the four principals being head coaches to his general manager, each with their own sports team.
“We have the highest expectations,” Cherniss said at the Wednesday, Sept. 27, conference. “Students begin kindergarten understanding what those expectations are. We set these expectations and the students meet them.”
CAASPP, which stands for California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, is a standardized test evaluating student proficiency in English language arts and mathematics. It is administered to students in grades 3-8 and also grade 11. SMUSD overall had 90% of its students meet or exceed standards in English language arts and 86% meet or exceed them in math, both of which led the state.
“We are always trying to innovate and to stay on the cutting edge of education so that students will always be challenged,” Cherniss said. “We recognize that there is competition and we like that.”
The percentage of students exceeding or meeting English language arts standards in SMUSD’s elementary schools were 91.67% of 3rd-graders, 93.36% of 4th-graders and 93.46% of 5th-graders.
For math, it was 91.33% of 3rd-graders, 92.69% of 4th-graders and 91.71% of 5th-graders.
“Our students are coming to us every day ready and excited to learn,” said Valentine Elementary School Principal Colleen Shields, praising parents for preparing their children to learn.
Shields also praised her teaching staff with how it has implemented educational standards like Common Core to great success.
Carver Elementary School Principal Michael Lin, playing off Cherniss’ sports metaphor, also lauded parents and the organizations they join to support the schools as the sponsors for the teams and their “players.”
“With any team, the success of the team is really the star players, not the coach,” he said. “It’s really the catalyst of all these star players and sponsors coming together.”
At Huntington Middle School, 89.8% of its 6th-graders exceeded or met English language arts standards, with 90.31% of 7th-graders and 88.12% of 8th-graders also doing so. In math, 82.7% of 6th-graders, 81.58% of 7th-graders and 83.08% of 8th-graders achieved that mark.
HMS Principal Jason Kurtenbach cited the robust number of extracurriculars available as helping to continue his students’ education and further stimulate their brains before or after school.
“The support we get from parents, the district office and staff to do that is really awesome,” he said.
Of the district’s 11th-graders at San Marino High School, 85.91% exceeded or met English language arts standards and 81.44% did so in math.
SMHS Principal Issaic Gates, weeks into his first year at the school, said he believes the rankings speak “directly to the values of the community” and gave credit to the three other schools for how much they send students to his school.
“My fellow ‘coaches,’ their staff and their hard work prepares the students for the high school,” he said. “Once they get there, we have a dedicated staff and dedicated parents and that’s the teamwork.”
C. Joseph Chang, president of the SMUSD Board of Education, said it has been amazing how the district has topped state evaluations consistently throughout his time on the board.
“I want to say ‘Thank you’ a hundred times,” he said, speaking to the principals and also parents in the audience. “Every year, I have the confidence we will get No. 1 because of our very supportive community.”
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