Most public schools across Mountain View saw modest gains in test scores this year, with some making huge strides in student performance across the board and some losing ground, according to state data.
Notably, Monta Loma and Castro elementary schools saw progress erased, and there was a drop in performance among the most high needs students at the high school level. Achievement gaps in math widened as low-income and Latino students lost ground at the elementary and middle school level.
Each spring, students across the state take a Common Core-aligned standardized test marking progress in English language arts and math. These scores are a critical benchmark for schools measuring academic progress in a way that's consistent from one school district to another.
For the Mountain View Whisman School District, overall testing data shows slow-but-steady progress in English language arts, with 70.7% of students meeting state standards compared to 67.9% last year. The gains were consistent across the board: English language learners, low-income students, students with disabilities and Latino students all had better scores in the core subject this year. Math results were virtually flat, declining by a fraction of a percent to 63.7%.
Broken down by school however, there were clear success stories and trouble spots. Theuerkauf Elementary School performed much better, with 65.4% of students meeting state standards in English and 55.6% in math -- a 10% and 9% increase from the prior year, respectively. Theuerkauf's test scores used to be on par with some of the lowest-performing schools in East San Jose in 2015, and today are comparable to average scores across Santa Clara County.
Landels Elementary School had a similar breakthrough year, with the number of students meeting state standards in English language arts rising by 10% to 78.1% compared to the 2017-18 school year. The number of students meeting the state standards for math also rose by 5% to 69% over the same period.
Math scores at Mistral Elementary School, home to the district's dual immersion program, decreased slightly, but had a similar 9% jump in students meeting standards in English language arts.
Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph told the Voice that the results are a cause for celebration at the three schools and a testament to the hard work and dedication of the teachers. Going forward, he said the district's priority is to review what worked at the school sites and ensure it wasn't just a one-off, and that Theuerkauf, Landels and Mistral can replicate this year's success.
From the outset, Rudolph said it appears the three schools were quick to use data and student assessments to make adjustments to instruction, all the way down to granular changes for individual student needs.
"All three sites really used data wisely across the board," he said. "Either the principal brought in a new data practice or the teachers really embraced it as a school community, and how they use that information is really a defining factor to make sure they met their goals."
The latest batch of data doesn't bode well for Castro Elementary School, a school where a large majority of the students come from low-income families and speak English as a second language. Despite being a success story in recent years with test scores rising considerably, performance this year shows a slump. The percentage of Castro students meeting state standards in English language arts inched up by about 1% to 48.2%, while the percentage of students meeting math standards sank to 32.9% -- a 6% drop from last year.
Monta Loma struggled as well, with the number of students meeting state standards in English dropping from 61.7% to 56.9% this year. Math performance also declined, with the number of students meeting standards in math decreasing from 51.1% to 46.9%.
Both schools were a cause for concern for the district's trustees as the Oct. 10 school board meeting. Board president Tamara Wilson said the scores are "incredible" at many of the school sites but that she was disheartened to see the test results from Castro and Monta Loma across all subgroups and subjects.
"What are we missing?" she asked.
Rudolph said the district plans to provide extra support at both schools, including more opportunities for professional development for staff, and that the district may need to return to the board with an overarching plan for how to fix the losses in academic performance. For now, he said, the priority is still figuring out what went wrong.
"Part of what we're doing is deconstructing what has taken place at both of those sites and focus on what may be missing," he said.
The state tests were administered in the spring, prior to a major shift in the district's school attendance boundaries, meaning that scores in future years may change as individual students change campuses. District data shows that the newly opened Vargas Elementary School students, if it enrolled the students it has today, would have had 79% of its students meet state standards in English language arts and 74% meeting standards in math -- roughly equivalent to those at Bubb Elementary School.
Mountain View Whisman School District officials have long sought to close the persistent achievement gap between students along ethnic and socioeconomic lines, and the latest data shows a mixed bag on those efforts. More low-income and Latino students met standards in English language arts compared to last year, but generally performed worse in math.
High schools claw back last year's losses
Test scores for the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District show progress in students meeting state standards in English language arts, which dipped last year and fluctuated from one year to the next.
Students in the high school district generally perform better than those in the Mountain View Whisman School District, with 82.6% of students meeting state standards in English language arts this year, up from 79.3% last year. Those gains were shared evenly across Mountain View and Los Altos high schools.
Math scores stagnated for the third year in a row, with the number of teens meeting standards in math virtually identical to last year at 68.8%.
In an Oct. 15 statement, the district called the test scores "steady" and "strong," hanging onto high level performance and gains from prior years. Internal tracking by the district shows that the students who were tested in their junior year -- the only year high school students take the test -- performed better or the same as they did in eighth grade, said Margarita Navarro, associate superintendent of educational services.
"I think it's a testament to what we're doing at the school sites," Navarro said. "The majority of students did maintain a (passing) score, and that's good news."
Some of the biggest gains were among Latino students, which has been a priority for the district. The number of Latino students meeting state standards in English language arts increased by nearly 7% this year to 56.3% which, while higher, still falls well below Asian (90.5%) and white (93.53%) students in the district.
Students with disabilities in the high school district struggled to keep up with their peers, according to the testing data. About 37.4% of students with disabilities met state standards in English language arts, down from 41.5% last year, while 13.8% met state standards in math, down from 26% -- the lowest performance since 2016.
Among the 36 English learners who were tested in the high school district this year, only one met state standards for English language arts. None of them met the standards for math.
Navarro said school administrators will go through the data and analyze what can be done to improve scores, but noted that it's difficult to account for big fluctuations in scores among students with disabilities and English learners. The cohorts are fairly small, and students with disparate needs and backgrounds are often lumped into one category.
"It's always really hard to compare one year to another," she said.