The deluge of data did show some bright spots, however, with the district's traditionally lower-performing schools like Castro and Theuerkauf elementaries showing either big improvements or holding onto gains from past years.
Test scores presented to the school board at its Sept. 6 meeting showed that 44 percent of Latino students met or exceeded state standards for English language arts on tests taken in the spring. That's better than the rest of the county, where 38 percent met the standards, but it doesn't exactly come as good news.
The exact same percentage of Latino students — 44 percent — met state standards in 2016 and in 2017, indicating the district isn't making ground year over year. By stark contrast, 88 percent of white students and 87 percent of Asian students in the district met state standards this year.
The gap is roughly the same in math, with 84 percent of white students and 87 percent of Asian students meeting state standards compared to 39 percent of Latino students.
The same is true for children from low-income families, described as "socio-economically disadvantaged" students. The number of test-takers meeting or exceeding standards has hardly budged since 2016 for English language arts — hovering around 40 percent for the past three years — and only modestly improved for math, with 23 percent meeting standards this year.
A comprehensive study of test score data released by Stanford's Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA) found that the achievement gap in the Mountain View Whisman School District between white and Hispanic students is among the largest in the nation and consistently within the top 20. A report from CEPA, updated earlier this year, states that Bay Area cities like Berkeley, San Rafael and Mountain View share a common achievement gap along ethnic lines, due in part to high levels of socioeconomic inequality and segregation.
District officials didn't dwell on test results broken down by income or ethnicity at the board meeting, instead describing the scores as a mixed bag with an overall increase in students meeting state standards, as roughly two-thirds of all students met standards in both English language arts and math. Tara Vikjord, the district's director of curriculum and instruction, said Mountain View Whisman is consistently inching towards the high performance of the neighboring Los Altos, Palo Alto Unified and Cupertino Union school districts, where about 85 percent of students meet state standards in both subjects.
"We're still underperforming (compared to) three of our neighboring districts but we're making gains, which is great," she said.
Board member Ellen Wheeler said that didn't come as a surprise, given the demographic differences between Mountain View and the even more affluent cities nearby, and that a more apt comparison would be Sunnyvale Unified School District. She said district staffers should be proud of the latest round of test results, which show Mountain View Whisman is significantly outperforming Sunnyvale.
Students with disabilities are among the lowest performing in the district, but have made steady progress since California ditched the STAR test in favor of new exams based on the Common Core state standards in 2015. Test results for 2018 show that 22 percent of students with disabilities met the standards for both English and math, beating the average across Santa Clara County for the first time since testing began.
The school with the largest performance boost for the 2017-18 year was Theuerkauf, which saw huge improvements compared to last year. The number of students meeting state standards for math shot up from 30 percent to 47 percent — the single highest change of any school since 2015 — while the number of students meeting standards for English language arts increased from 42 percent to 55 percent.
Other schools, notably Landels Elementary, rebounded this year from a previous drop in test scores. In 2015, 68 percent of students met state math standards, a figure that dropped to 53 percent in 2016 and 2017. The latest round of test results show the school bounced back to 64 percent this year.
Board member Tamara Wilson questioned what happened at Mistral Elementary, where there were "dramatic drops" in performance on the English language arts test across nearly all demographics. Vikjord said there could be multiple reasons for the decrease, including the fact that the school lost its instructional coach for six months out of the school year.
"We know how important an instructional coach is to learning and professional development of teachers, so when the coach had to come back into the classroom to teach for the last half of the year — that's a big loss to the instructional program," she said.
State test scores for 2018 haven't technically been made public, with the release date scheduled sometime next month. Vikjord said the state took the unusual step of giving school districts a sneak peek of the test scores — albeit preliminary and subject to change — in order to review the results and plan for the upcoming school year.
There are also some holes in the data. Any subset of test-takers — all grades in middle school and third grade through fifth grade in elementary schools — with fewer than 10 students is listed as "n/a" to protect the privacy of students. As a result, test scores for English learners at Stevenson Elementary School are not available, along with scores for white and Asian students at Castro and Asian students and students with disabilities at Mistral.
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