Understanding Public School Test Results

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Editor,

Test question: When our schools score well academically compared to the rest of Orange County, is it excellent teaching, smart students, well-educated high achieving parents, small school district with 50% higher annual spending per student than other county schools?

If you answered all of the above you got it right.

We have the highest paid teachers county-wide, consistently delivering high value for students.  So it’s not surprising after teachers and students drilled long and hard that most students outperformed larger county school districts in the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP).

CAASPP grades public schools based on the percentage of students learning as expected at grade level under Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  The good news is 30% to 40% of students are proficient at grade level, and 45% to 50% are ready at the next grade level or higher.

Well done, but hardly cause for complacency.  Indeed, a report by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy concludes high rates of above grade testing nationwide reveal increased percentages of students ready to accelerate but denied that opportunity.

Up to 2 million students in California test a full year ahead of grade level, too many treading water in a sea of squandered potential.  Johns Hopkins describes as “academically invisible” this growing class of proficient but under-served students.

Student idleness syndrome is expressed in the recent state Healthy Kids Survey reporting unprecedented levels of student “anguish” and increased substance abuse at LBHS.

Ironically, students testing below grade are less “invisible” than students who test proficient.  Clearly, the CCSS promise to reverse decline in intellectual rigor so “every student succeeds” at high potential remains unredeemed.  Students responding well when challenged to achieve often cope poorly with low-expectations, dreading boredom not failure.

Johns Hopkins recommends fine-tuning curriculum locally, accelerating learning for students when ready.  Instead, our elected school board did the opposite, eliminating rather than enhancing critically needed acceleration classes at Thurston and LBHS.

Policies recommended by over-paid outside consultants and under-qualified senior staff who are now gone need to be re-evaluated based on experience.  In doing so we need to support and rely on local teachers we know and trust, working with our new superintendent.

Despite the need to enhance accelerated learning for individual college readiness, collectively our students should be commended. The highest grade level proficiency rate county-wide honors their teachers, parents and our community schools.

Howard Hills, Laguna Beach

The writer is one of three candidates for school board.    

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Your letters never make any sense, and your comments at board meetings are rambling and often pointless. You would do well to take an Intro to Communications class or sign up for a local chapter of Toastmasters.

  2. Well, I agree this letter is a little counter intuitive and not easy to track. How’s this: Conventional wisdom is that kids are stressed out by pressure to achieve and perform, but what respected educational scholars at Johns Hopkins are reporting is that lack of challenges – and the satisfaction of overcoming challenges – is also a growing problem for students testing high, just as it is for many students testing below grade level. LBHS dropped out of the USN&WR Top 100 high school in America because our programs for below grade level students are not working and producing better results. It is no coincidence that the School Board is dealing with these issues by hiring expensive consultants, instead of investing in our teachers to build local curriculum from the bottom up. Nor is it a coincidence that while parents obsess over individual college readiness more kids are using more drugs and alcohol. If that makes no sense to you, I am sorry.

  3. Sorry, I got sleepy. The point is too many bright kids are coasting when they should be excelling in classes that enable and empower them to overcome difficulty. Based on what education lobbyists and senior staff hired ill-advisedly in 2013 recommended, our School Board got rid of math and other acceleration classes and changed the weight given to more challenging classes to reduce the opportunities for “coasting” or “invisible” students to step up and prove themselves.

  4. Bravo, Mr. Hills, for comments that are right on the money. If you want to know just how dull many of our kids find the current dumbing-down of the curriculum, all you have to do is ask them (some of them are even smart enough to know the pointlessness of ad hominem attacks, unlike the author of the previous comment).

    What you didn’t mention is that the school board’s decision to reduce advanced offerings was vocally opposed by parents and students alike, but fell on deaf ears. The legacy of our school board has been to swell the ranks of the School-Bored.

  5. Howard, you could not have said it better, like Sarah our board members don’t get it, they have consistently failed to do the research before making bad decisions that hurt our children. The latest in a string of dumbing down the curriculum was the elimination of honors classes while surrounding districts keep beefing them up. Please keep speaking out., David

  6. “Well, I agree this letter is a little counter intuitive and not easy to track,” and “Sorry, I got sleepy…”–Howard Hills

    I rest my case, Frank.

  7. […] Average salary based on education level The legacy of our school board has been to swell the ranks of the School-Bored. Howard, you could not have said it better, like Sarah our board members don’t get it, they have consistently failed to do the research before making bad decisions that hurt our children. What is education level The latest in a string of dumbing down the curriculum was the elimination of honors classes while surrounding districts keep beefing them up. Secondary level education means in india Please keep speaking out., David Site: http://www.lagunabeachindy.com/understanding-public-school-test-results/ […]

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