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SBE News Release for September 10, 2015

State of California
Edmund G. Brown Jr., Governor
1430 N Street, Suite 5111
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-319-0827
Fax: 916-319-0175

For Immediate Release
September 10, 2015

Julie White, Director of Communications

Statement on Test Scores by California State Board
President Michael Kirst

The following article by Michael Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education, was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on September 10, 2015:

1st School Test Score Results

Test results released Wednesday by the California Department of Education set a new baseline for academic performance of students, schools and districts. The tests set standards at readiness for college unlike the old, multiple-choice tests they replaced. Results, in combination with new online instructional resources and local accountability tools, give parents, educators and stakeholders much more actionable data than ever before.

The results show that 53 percent of California’s students meet or nearly meet the English Language Arts achievement standards, and 48 percent meet or nearly meet the mathematics achievement standards. One of 10 students exceeds the standards for both subjects. At every grade level, English Language Arts results are stronger for girls than for boys. The results for math show much less gender disparity. Results for students from traditionally disadvantaged groups show significant achievement gaps.

These new tests aligned with the Common Core Standards ask a lot more of students than the old, multiple-choice exams. The new tests use computer adaptive technology to provide more accurate information about individual student performance. Along with reading to follow a story, students are asked to cite evidence and draw logical conclusions. They are using math to solve real-world problems.

Test results are reported according to four achievement levels: standard not met, standard nearly met, standard met and standard exceeded, with additional information about specific skill areas addressed by the assessment. While these achievement levels can serve as a starting point for discussion about the performance of students and of groups of students, they will be criticized as an oversimplification.

Teachers, schools and districts are now taking a deeper look at individual student performance and they are determining the kinds of instructional shifts necessary to improve student outcomes and prepare students for credit-bearing college coursework.

In English Language Arts, more than half of the class of 2016 is ready or conditionally ready for college work, and in math, 29 percent is ready or conditionally ready. High school juniors and seniors are receiving information about how to prepare for college work and what courses they should take during their senior year.

Improving student achievement and implementing academic standards are well-defined priorities in new state funding and accountability laws. While school districts and charters now have greater discretion to allocate resources according to local needs, they also are required to describe how they are spending resources to improve student outcomes and implement the new standards in their local accountability plans.

In California’s K-12 system, where more than 300,000 educators serve in 11,000 elementary, middle and high schools, including 1,125 charter schools, change takes time. It also requires considerable resources and patience. The California State Board of Education estimates that less than half of the state’s teaching force is fully trained to deliver instruction that meets the new standards. In addition, instructional resources aligned to standards for teachers and students are just beginning to reach classrooms.

Overall, teachers are highly motivated and they support the instructional changes necessary to improve student outcomes. It’s a matter of giving teachers the time, support and training to make it happen. Society is transforming at an accelerating rate, and the expectations about what our graduates are expected to know and be able to do are substantial.

Michael Kirst is president of the California State Board of Education.


Last Reviewed: Wednesday, March 08, 2023
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