California Test Results Slip for First Time in 10 Years

A report released by California's education authorities show that for the first time in nearly 10 years, student performance on standardized tests has declined. The report, which is based on the analysis done by the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program – which breaks down outcomes by district and region as well – shows that the state's largest district, Los Angeles Unified, reflected the overall trend.

Rob Kuznia of The Daily Breeze writes that allthough the decline is minor, that it is the first drop since the tests were introduced in 2003 has education officials worried. LAUSD reading results broke the streak of improvement that spanned 5 years, although math results showed a very minor improvement. According to Rob Kuznia of The Daily Breeze, the report is based on the results of the California Standards Test given to nearly 5 million students every year.

In a statement, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson attributed this year's slip to not only the economy — which over the past five years has taken a deep toll on school resources — but also an ongoing, sweeping transition to a new set of nationwide content standards, known as Common Core. He stressed, however, that in the long run, schools across the state have made vast improvements.

"As you would expect for a school system in transition, results varied from grade to grade, subject to subject, and school to school, but the big picture is one of remarkable resilience despite the challenges," Torlakson said.

This will likely be the last year for the STAR program as the state's imminent adoption of Common Core Standards means that students will be taking computerized tests going forward.

The general decline in achievement wasn't the only red flag raised in the report. Kuznia notes that there has also been a retreat on the performance gap between African-American and Hispanic students and their white peers.

Conforming to this pattern are the results from the Los Angeles Unified School District. The nation's second-largest school district lost a negligible bit of ground in English, with its proficiency rate dropping to 47.6 percent from 47.9. But the share of LAUSD students making the grade in math rose to 45.3 percent from 44.5.

"While I always like to see gains," said LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, "I'm very concerned when we experience decreases. This round of tests was administered at the low point of the district's unprecedented budget crisis. I'm proud overall of how our students and teachers performed under such extraordinarily difficult circumstances."

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