In something of a photo finish, La Cañada Unified School District placed third in the most recent statewide CAASPP scoring, released this week by the California Department of Education.
“We were very pleased with the performance and appreciative of all of our staff’s hard work to make sure the scores are so strong,” Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said.
For the third consecutive year, the computerized California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress system tested students in grades 3-8 and 11 on their understanding of English language arts and math.
When measuring by how many students statewide met or exceeded California educational standards, LCUSD was behind only nearby San Marino Unified and Alameda County’s Piedmont Unified.
In math, 85.81% of San Marino’s students met or exceeded standards, while 83.63% of Piedmont’s and 83.53% of LCUSD’s did.
The English test results showed 90.05% of San Marino students met or exceeded standards, compared with 86.02% of Piedmont pupils and 85.86% of LCUSD students.
“We’re talking about moving the dial by hundredths of percentage points,” Sinnette said. “It means we have to be even more targeted and strategic and … engage in best practices with our comparable districts. South Pasadena [fifth in the state, with an average of 81% of students meeting or exceeding standards] did an amazing job and San Marino knocked it out of the park again. We’re just going to engage in collaboration and collegiality and make sure that we’re continuously striving to build a culture of improvement.”
Judging by mean scale scoring, LCUSD reported that its students’ scores were first, second or third best in the state in five of the seven grade levels that were tested in English. That included the district’s 6th-graders, who posted the best mean scale scores in the state, according to Lindi Dreibelbis, chief director of assessment.
In math, four of seven grade levels were among the top three.
When CAASPP testing results were reported for the first time two years ago, LCUSD posted the highest English scores in six of seven grade levels throughout the state. In math, LCUSD students had the top score in 6th and 7th grade.
Last year, LCUSD students posted top mean scale English scores in three grades, and the top math score among 6th-graders.
Before CAASPP testing was implemented and students’ standardized testing results were measured by the state’s Academic Performance Index, LCUSD enjoyed a five-year run as No. 2 in California, behind only San Marino, which held the top spot for 15 years.
“[The results] give us the unique challenge, when we’re performing so well, to do the deep dive in surgical and strategic ways to keep moving the dial,” Sinnette said.
“We’re pleased with the performance, but we recognize that it’s one measure — albeit an important one. Academic success is really important, but also creating well-rounded, healthy thriving people is a mission that we embrace.”
The state Department of Education also is trying to find a more holistic approach to gauging student success, and so the CAASPP results will be woven into the new California Dashboard accountability system, which also considers chronic absenteeism, suspension rate, English learner progress, graduation rates and college or career readiness.
When the first Dashboard results were released in February, LCUSD scored “very high,” the highest mark a district can receive.
The CAASPP results released this week, which state officials said were delayed for a month because of a computing error, indicated that the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards is increasing across the board.
In all tested grades throughout California, 49% of students met or exceeded the English standard, which was an increase of 5% from the previous year. In math, 37% met or exceeded state targets, an increase of 4%.
“The higher test scores show that the dedication, hard work and patience of California’s teachers, parents, school employees and administrators are paying off,” state Superintendent Tom Torlakson said in a statement.
More than 3.2 million California students took part in CAASPP testing, with 1% of eligible students withdrawing on a parental exemption. In LCUSD, 98% of eligible students participated.
LCUSD’s highest achievement came in 4th-grade math, with 89.97% of students meeting or exceeding standards. Overall in math, every grade except 7 and 11 finished with more than 60% of students exceeding state marks.
In the past three years, LCUSD 3rd-graders have improved their math scores significantly — 16% more exceeded targets this year than when CAASPP testing began, Dreibelbis reported.
Among the highlights at LCUSD’s elementary schools, La Cañada Elementary School 4th-graders scored “exceptionally,” with 96.62% meeting or exceeding state English targets, while 95.51% of them met or exceeded standards in math. At Palm Crest Elementary School, the 6th-graders had the highest English marks — 91.43% met or exceeded English standards and 86.67% did so in math.
Meanwhile, at Paradise Canyon Elementary School, math scores continued to climb in grades 3, 4 and 5, while English scores improved among 6th-graders, Dreibelbis said.
At La Cañada High School, the highest English score was among 8th-graders, of whom 87.03% met or exceeded standards.