School test scores continue to climb
Officials from both of Mountain View's public school districts are hailing recently released state standardized testing data that show improvement in most grades and a majority of subjects.
In the Mountain View Whisman School District, every grade level except fifth scored higher on the 2012 California Standards Test than in 2011. The greatest improvement came from socioeconomically disadvantaged seventh-graders, a group that produced a 16-percent increase in English and language arts scores over the previous year's class. The biggest drop was seen in the math scores of socioeconomically disadvantaged fifth-graders. That group subtracted 10 percent from 2011's scores.
"We are extremely pleased with our progress," said MVWSD Superintendent Craig Goldman, adding that he believes the strong CST scores foreshadow a rise in Academic Performance Index scores, to be released in October. "Across the board, it was a significant improvement."
Throughout the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District, ninth-graders improved in almost every subject tested — except geometry, which remained at last year's levels. 10th-graders improved in all subjects but algebra; and 11th-graders saw the most year-to-year decreases, with scores in United States history and summative high school math (encompassing algebra and geometry) dropping, and English language arts scores staying the same.
Barry Groves, MVLA superintendent, said he was not too concerned to see the year-to-year drops in all grade levels that take the CST, because the overall trend is one of continued growth. "What we look for are trends over a five-year period," he said. "There will be ups and downs from year-to-year."
Comparing the 2012 with those from five years ago, ninth graders and 11th graders showed improvement in all subjects, and the district's 10th-graders saw only one decrease — a 2-percent drop in algebra II scores.
"I'm very pleased," said Groves. "The CST scores indicate that our API scores will go up as a district when they come out in October, and they will show that for 10 straight years, we've seen academic improvement gains."
Both superintendents gave credit to the faculty and staff of their districts. "As important as it is to measure student progress, nothing happens without the work in the classroom," Goldman said.
And just as both Goldman and Groves anticipated stronger API scores in the fall, the two superintendents said they also looked forward with an eye toward further improvement.
Considering the fact that scores dropped among all fifth-graders both in math and language arts, Goldman noted that it is common to see a dip in scores among that particular age group, as "students have changing priorities as they enter middle school."
"We don't want to excuse student performance on that basis," Goldman said. District officials and teachers are aware of the issue and it is something they will strive to address, he said. Even though he interpreted this year's CST scores as mostly good, he emphasized that his district has more work to do.
Even though the MVLA scores showed only one drop — in algebra II — over the past five years, it was concerning to Groves. Algebra II is a particularly important subject, as passing the course is one of the minimum requisites students need in order to be eligible for many four-year college programs.
"We're not in this for scores," Goldman said. "We're in this for student achievement. Scores give us some indication on how students are progressing and how we're improving as an organization."