Peninsula scores reveal a mix of challenges

San Mateo County students’ test scores are giving education leaders plenty of reason for optimism — but also indicate that some students need more help meeting assessment benchmarks, according to 2007 statewide test results released Wednesday.

Each year, California students in grades two through 11 must take a battery of tests. Students who score in the top two tiers — “proficient” and “advanced” — receive a passing mark. But when a significant percentage of students fails to reach that level, schools can face a variety of educational sanctions including the state takeover of a school.

Sixty-one percent of local fourth-graders scored at proficient levels or above on the English-language assessments, up from 59 percent in 2006.

Sixty-five percent reached proficiency levels in mathematics, up 3 percent from 62 percent in 2006.

However, 57 percent of seventh-graders scored proficient or above on English, up from 55 percent in 2006, while 47 percent met that level in math, down from 51 percent in 2006.

Tenth-graders held steady; 47 percent met proficiency levels on the English assessment, matching their 2006 performance. High school math scores are not tallied cumulatively because those students take different math exams based on their ability level.

“I know our districts are working constantly on getting basic math scores higher,” said Cheryl Hightower, associate superintendent of instructional services in the San Mateo County Office of Education.

While most districts have seen scores rise or fall by a few points, many individual schools showed big gains in English, mathematics or both, including Brisbane Elementary, Garden Village Elementary in Daly City, Vallemar Elementary in Pacifica, Selby Lane and Taft elementary schools in Redwood City, and North Shoreview Elementary in South San Francisco.

A few showed big drops in one or both subjects, such as Bayshore Elementary in Daly City, Ralston Intermediate in Belmont, Taylor Middle in Millbrae and Adelante Spanish Immersion School in Redwood City.

Adelante is a school for Spanish-speaking students that has used unique curriculum, including storyboards, to help students make gains on previous STAR tests. The school had three principals in the 2006-07 school year, and the fourth-grade classes had many substitute teachers, proving just how sensitive classes can be to instability, according to Liz Wolfe, associate superintendent for educational services in the Redwood City School District.

The Redwood City School District barely avoided federal sanctions last year when it failed to meet assessment benchmarks in 2005-06, and should avoid them for 2006-07.

In response, Redwood City is launching a standard, districtwide curriculum in 2007-08. Similarly, South San Francisco Unified School District continues to hold its head above water when it comes to mandated progress, according to Christine Baumgardner, supervisor of assessment for the district.

“Our elementary schools are much stronger in terms of teaching to the standards-based curriculum, which came out in 2000-01,” Baumgardner said. “Middle school has been more of a challenge to get everybody on the same playing field.”

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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