Math Teacher’s Calculation Puts LCHS on Top Statewide

As far as math teacher Bob Huson is concerned, La Cañada High School students are No. 1.
To cheers from administrators, he proclaimed as much after at Tuesday’s La Cañada Unified School District’s Governing Board meeting, pointing out that only 34% of the juniors attending Palo Alto High School — the only school to record better 11th-grade results than LCHS — took last spring’s California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress assessments.
In the English language arts and literacy assessment, 109 of Palo Alto’s 474 juniors combined to post a mean scale score of 2714. Together, 318 LCHS juniors (of 336 enrolled) scored 2709. The next closest district was Piedmont City High School’s 2705, according to Lindi Dreibelbis, LCUSD’s chief director of assessment.
On the math side of the equation, the small portion of Palo Alto’s students who tested produced a mean score of 2749, ahead of LCHS’s 2725 and San Marino High School’s 2710. At LCHS, 318 of 336 students were tested; in San Marino, 268 of 275 students participated in the assessment.
“When I look at the math scores, I see an outlier,” Huson said. “I know Palo Alto, that district had … a strong campaign of opting out, so I looked on the California Department of Education website, and my jaw almost hit the floor: They only tested 34% of their students.
“And if you are going to do a mean comparison of districts, I think it’s fair that you test your kids. While everyone else is in the 95-96% … I don’t think that should be a comparison.”
Said Dreibelbis: “When you have such a small percentage testing, you can’t help but ask, which kids were tested?”
“So,” LCUSD Governing Board member Dan Jeffries asked, “you put their first-place ranking with an asterisk? Almost like a home run hitter being on steroids or something?”
In fact, Huson promoted LCHS to first place on the mean-score chart (which is unofficial and compiled by LCUSD according to information on the Department of Education website, Driebelbis reminded the board).
“I’m here to make a declaration tonight!” Huson said with a wave of his arm. “I’m here to declare that out of all of districts in the state … La Cañada Unified is No. 1!”
Once the cheering subsided, board member Ellen Multari sought clarification on how so many students could opt out.
Dreibelbis explained that parents have long had the right to opt out of standardized testing, though districts strongly discourage it, in part because federal law requires California schools to meet a 95% participation rate.
In the past, few California students opted out. In 2013, fewer than 7,400 of the state’s 4.7 million students declined to take the STAR test.
More recently, some districts have been faced a rash of students opting out of taking the new computer-adaptive CAASPP test, including, for the past two years, Palo Alto Unified and, more locally, Burbank Unified. Only 269 of 656 juniors at Burbank High School took the exam this year, objecting, reportedly, either because of how busy they were or because they didn’t see it as something that would benefit them personally.
But Dreibelbis stressed how crucial the assessments are for schools, calling them “a very important component of the entire learning cycle and accountability for schools and districts.”
“The assessments are important all the way around,” she said Wednesday. “We’re using the results to see where students are strong and where learning can be advanced, and which are weaker areas where learning can be supported. So, internally, that’s why the assessments are important to us.
“And, externally, yes, they will be folded into assessments for schools and districts across the state. [Also] it’s very nice to be able to show the hard work and good work everyone is doing.”
On Tuesday, Dreibelbis told Multari and her colleagues that “if a parent wants to opt out, we have a conversation with them. ‘This is important for our district; this is important for our property values; this is important for our children, to know where they are as they continue their education.’
“There are many, many reasons not to opt your child out of these tests.”

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