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SFUSD continues to excel in statewide testing, but disparities persist

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Results from the 2017 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress show an upward trend for San Francisco students tested in math but disparities in scores among English learners. (Mike Koozmin/2015 S.F. Examiner)
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Report cards are in for California’s school districts and show a positive performance trend in San Francisco, where students’ scores not only exceeded state averages, but are on the rise for the third consecutive year since the state revamped its academic testing system.

According to results released by the California Department of Education on Wednesday, 54.6 percent of the some 26,300 third through eighth and 11th grade students who participated in the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) met or exceeded standards for English Language Arts (ELA) in the 2016-17 school year. That’s up from 53 percent last year and 52 percent in the spring of 2015.

The upward trend also holds true for San Francisco Unified School District students tested in math. This year, 51 percent met or exceeded the standard — a 1 percent increase from last year and a 3 percent increase from the year before.

However, disparities in test scores persist among English learners, as well as black and Latino students.

Statewide, some 48.5 percent and 37.5 percent of students tested under the new CAASPP system this spring met the standard for ELA and for math, respectively.

“The district has focused on supporting teachers in implementing curriculum and instructional strategies that are aligned to the state standards,” SFUSD spokesperson Gentle Blythe said about the district’s improvements in overall performance.

She continued, “Most schools have math and literacy coaches or instructional reform facilitators and teachers have paid release time to collaborate and plan. At the elementary level most teachers have had extensive training in a research-based comprehensive approach to literacy.”

The CAASPP testing system, or Smarter Balanced Assessments, was implemented in the 2014-15 school year and is a shift away from standardized multiple choice tests, focusing more heavily on critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills. The new, computerized system aligns with Common Core Standards in math and English, which has phased into schools nationwide since 2010.

SFUSD noted “significant gains” in its middle schools, where scores show a 5 percent increase in students who met or exceeded standards in ELA and a 3 percent increase in math over the last three years.

“For the past five years, the SFUSD has been engaged in transforming its middle schools including more project-based learning, more technology-integrated instruction and intensive support for math teachers,” Blythe said.

But notable disparities in achievement remain. Scores among black students have increased slightly, though Latino students’ scores remain largely unchanged. While ELA scores grew by 1.09 percent district-wide, they increased by less than 1 percentage point (0.78 percent) for black students, and dropped slightly (0.14 percent) among Latino students.

Similarly, math scores throughout the district increased by 1.19 percentage points, including by 1.14 percent among black students and 0.48 percent among Latino students.

Black students at Aptos, Roosevelt and Presidio middle schools and John Muir Elementary School tested above the district average.

Among SFUSD’s English learners, less than 20 percent met or exceeded the ELA standards this year and some 27 percent met or exceeded the standards in math.

“I am very concerned about the disparities that continue to exist. The district continues to focus resources towards students who suffer most from the gaps,” said San Francisco Board of Education President Shamann Walton, adding that SFUSD’s Local Control Funding and weighted student formulas allow for more resources to be allocated to schools “with the biggest gaps.”

“With these opportunities, we will still have a way to go in order to achieve growth in all area for all students,” Walton said.

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