More than half of the students in city schools evaluated under a new, computerized testing system earlier this year met or exceeded the state’s standards in math and English.
However the tests found the proportion of students in the district’s most vulnerable groups who met the state standards to be mostly static or declining.
For the fourth consecutive year, third through eighth graders and 11th graders, or some 28,000 students in total, in the San Francisco Unified School District were tested for their proficiency in English Language Arts (ELA) and math using the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP).
Some gains were made over last year — the district’s overall proficiency in English rose to 55.3 percent in the 2017-18 school year, slightly up from 54.6 percent last school year and up from 52 percent in 2015-14.
Some 40 percent of SFUSD schools were ranked as scoring “high to very high” in both areas, with ten schools scoring at a proficiency rate higher than 75 percent. They included the Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila Elementary School, Lawton K-8, Claire Lilienthal K-8, Lowell High School, and Alice Fong Yu K-8, according to SFUSD spokesperson Laura Dudnick.
But test scores in math decreased slightly for the district overall — from about 51 percent to 50.6 percent following a three-year upward climb— and dropped off most noticeably for African American, Latino and special education student groups, as well as for English learners.
Despite various efforts launched in recent years to close the district’s achievement gap — which has emerged as an issue in the November race for school board — inequities remain.
Overall, 78 percent of white students and 71 percent of Asian students reached proficiency in English this year, compared to 19.7 percent of black students and 29 percent of Latino students. In math, more than 70 percent of white students, 72 percent of Asian students, 12.4 percent of black students and 21 percent of Latino students reached proficiency.
Alison Collins, a candidate for school board and African American Parent Advisory Council member, said the test scores alone “are not useful unless you are looking at multiple measurements, over time.”
“If we have a lot of [English learners] newcomers coming in, perhaps that’s why our scores for reading are flatlining,” said Collins. “What are teachers reporting on a daily basis? That’s also an assessment that, together [with the data], paints a bigger picture.”
According to a four-year comparison of the CAASPP test results, proficiency scores for black students at 12.4 percent this year decreased from last year, when 13.4 percent of black student participants met the state standard.
The most significant decrease in math proficiency was seen among English learners, who saw a nearly 5 percentile drop, from 27.2 percent last year to 21.5 percent this year. Dudnick noted that the English learner population “changes year-to-year due to the reclassification of students,” and that when evaluating English learners alongside reclassified students, the group’s “performance has remained static or slightly increased over the last four years.”
For participating special education students, math proficiency dropped from 18.1 percent last year to 15.4 percent this year, and Asian students’ scores dropped by nearly half a percentile from last year.
Black students’ scores remained stagnant at 19.3 percent for the second consecutive year, while Latino students saw a .5 percent increase. Scores dropped by 5.1 percent for english learners and by about 1 percentile for special education students.
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. Some 1,700 more students participated in the CAASPP assessment this year than last year.
In a statement released Tuesday, the district pointed out that black students’ “overall proficiency rate increased in English at the elementary school level and in math at the high school level,” and that 15 schools across the district “increased in either or both ELA and math” for this subgroup.
“These results are a testament to the hard work of our teachers, principals, and staff,” said SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews. “We must celebrate that so many students are meeting or exceeding these challenging standards. We also need to urgently close the achievement and opportunity gap that plagues our system by equitably focusing our resources to achieve better outcomes for our most underserved students.”
According to Dudnick, nine schools are most notably “closing the achievement gap between African American students and the highest-performing racial group” in English, including Francisco, Marina and Giannini middle schools.
For math, Mission High School is among seven SFUSD schools showing progress this year in closing its achievement gap for African American students. There, some 15.5 percent of the 249 students tested met or exceeded the state standard in math — with 7.14 percent of the 30 African American students who took the test meeting or exceeding the state standard.
Just 3 percent of the school’s 132 Latino students tested for math proficiency under CAASPP met or exceeded the state standard, in comparison to 24 percent of 25 white students tested.
Meeting the standards
SFUSD overall proficiency in English rose to 55.3 percent in the 2017-18 school year, up from 54.6 percent the previous year
Proficiency by ethnic groups, English 2018
78 percent of white students
71 percent of Asian students
19.7 percent of black students
29 percent of Latino students
Profiency by ethnic groups, Math 2018
70 percent of white students
72 percent of Asian students
12.4 percent of black students
21 percent of Latino students
Source: California Department of Education