August 15, 2008

Note: This edition includes Weekly Recap below

Top Stories and Commentary for Friday, August 15, 2008

By Nanette Asimov/San Francisco Chronicle

The state’s public school students improved in reading, writing and mathematics this year, marking five years of near-steady growth on the tough California Standards Test, results released Thursday show. But the good news came paired with bad as state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell declared that the education of African American students has reached a crisis stage. Scores of that group remained well below those of white and Asian American students, he said, while black students’ English skills generally match those of Latino students - many of whom are just learning the language. "I am acutely concerned about our African American students," O’Connell said after his Department of Education released results from the test given last spring.

Latino student achievement gap remains
By Victoria Waters/ImpreUSA

La brecha de los alumnos minoritarios en cuanto a su rendimiento en el examen estatal STAR continúa siendo significativa, según se desprende de los resultados dados a conocer hoy por el Superintendente de Instrucción Pública de California. Aunque los resultados del Examen y Reporte Estandarizado (STAR) mejoraron a nivel general frente al año pasado, más de la mitad de los jóvenes que tomaron el examen estuvieron por debajo de su nivel escolar, particularmente los estudiantes latinos y afroamericanos.

The achievement gap in the STAR state exams continues to be significant as evidenced in today’s release of the results by the State Superintendent of Public Education. Event though the results for the general population improved from last year, more than half the students who took the exam scored below their grade level, particularly Latino and African American students.

Also Noted for Friday, August 15, 2008:

By Jill Tucker/San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco schools earned bragging rights on state standardized tests again this year - performing better than the state as a whole across every grade in both math and English - but any celebration was clouded by the subpar proficiency of the district’s African American students, who continued to fall further behind their peers. Nearly all other categories of San Francisco students, regardless of ethnicity, income or English language ability, outscored the city’s black students in California Standards Test results posted Thursday. On the plus side, the scores of black students did go up about 1 percentage point in math proficiency and nearly 1 percentage point in English.

By George B. Sánchez/LA Daily News

Despite ongoing efforts to boost test scores and achievement, Los Angeles Unified students showed only slight gains in state results released Thursday and continued to lag below statewide averages. And more than two-thirds of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Latino and African-American students fell even further short in math and English standards, triggering renewed calls to end the "achievement gap" facing minority students. The LAUSD’s Latinos and African-Americans also fell short of their minority counterparts statewide in California’s Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR, program, which measures proficiency in English, math, science, reading and writing.

By Sharon Noguchi/San Jose Mercury News

Just as parents are receiving their children’s spring test scores in the mail this week, local districts and schools also are being handed their test report cards - and the news is encouraging. Schools continued to climb academically and achieve greater proficiency in English and math, according to state test scores for 2007-08 released this morning. Even more promising, students across ethnic lines are improving, and locally, students in nearly all ethnic groups exceed their peers statewide. More high school students are taking harder math classes than in the past and - surprisingly - more are doing better.

Blog by Katy Murphy/Oakland Tribune

OUSD’s test scores improved this year, after flattening out in 2007. But there is still plenty of room for improvement. Only about one-third of the kids tested scored at proficient levels or better in math, reading and science. (You can find the results here.) Also, despite modest gains in the average scores of most ethnic groups, a striking racial achievement gap remains. It shows up in an area that the school district has zeroed in on during the last four or five years: Third-grade reading. The disparity in the English language arts scores of white third-graders and their non-white peers has actually grown during the last five years, despite the district’s efforts to narrow the gap.

Federal standards may temper gains.
By Bruce Lieberman/San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego County students showed gains on the state’s latest standardized academic exams, exceeding state averages in math, English and other subjects. But the rising bar of federal standards threatens to diminish those improvements. Results from the 2008 Standardized Testing and Reporting Program, released yesterday, highlighted the disconnect between the state’s accountability system for public schools, which rewards schools for improving academic achievement, and the federal system of accountability, which sets fixed goals for achievement that all subgroups of students must meet.

By Shirin Parsavand/Riverside Press-Enterprise

The San Bernardino city schools have succeeded in getting many dropouts back into school, but fewer than 1 in 5 of those who come back end up earning a high school diploma, according to a new study. More than half of those who returned to school stayed for only a year, according to the study produced by WestEd, an education research organization based in San Francisco. BethAnn Berliner, the lead researcher, said there is little research on students who drop out and then return to school. She said she contacted district Superintendent Arturo Delgado after hearing him speak at a conference on dropouts.

Four new schools, repairs proposed in local bond.
By Cynthia E. Griffin/Our Weekly

A $7 billion bond recently approved by the Los Angeles Unified District (LAUSD),School Board of Education to go on the November ballot includes funding for two new high schools and several elementary schools as well as a laundry list of repairs on numerous campuses in South Los Angeles. The four schools are among the new facilities that will be built if 55 percent of local voters approve the measure, which was submitted to the office of the Los Angeles Registrar Recorder/County Clerk. The high schools include a new campus at 3537 Farmdale Ave., on the Dorsey High School grounds. It would seat about 648 students. Another high school on the southeast corner of Nadeau Street and Miramonte Boulevard in the Fremont High School attendance area would provide about 2,025 seats.

WEEKLY RECAP - Monday August 11 through Thursday August 14, 2008

By Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC (Monday)

For three weeks, twenty-six L.A. Unified high schoolers studied full time at UCLA and conducted interviews with student and civic leaders. They presented their findings at Los Angeles City Hall today. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story. Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: It’s the ninth year UCLA’s organized this summer research seminar for high school students. Sixteen-year-old Haemin Jee attends Cleveland High School in the San Fernando Valley. Her research group studied how caring adults help to motivate students. Conducting the research, she said, dissolved some of her cynicism.

By Eric Larsen/Capitol Weekly (Monday)

The state Department of Education’s recent announcement that one in four students drops out of school was grim news for Californians but a promising step forward in understanding the scope of a crisis. Instead of making an educated guess as they had been forced to do in the past, education officials were able to calculate the dropout rate by using a new system that tracks students as they move from district to district. When fully implemented, the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System can do much more than tell us the bad news after students drop out. It can help educators identify strategies likely to help children before they fail.

By Carl Wong/Santa Rosa Press-Democrat (Tuesday)

As the 2008-09 school year begins for the 71,000 students in Sonoma County’s K-12 schools, it seems like we are already on the threshold of a new decade. After all, the graduating class of 2010 is beginning its penultimate year of high school and the class of 2020 is sitting in today’s first-grade classrooms. Remember the Y2K bug? Just think about how different 2010 will be compared to the anticipation and excitement of the year 2000. Our world is changing so quickly that one can hardly imagine what today’s first-graders will face when they complete high school.

By Stephen Sawchuk/Ed Week (Tuesday)

A variety of federally financed grants based on performance pay are providing insights into how districts and teachers can collaborate to implement sustainable programs designed to improve teaching and learning. But the question of whether those Teacher Incentive Fund grants will yield measurably higher student achievement, applicant pools with better-qualified teachers and principals, and improved retention of effective teachers so far remains unanswered, say researchers, district administrators, and federal officials.

By Mel Bertrand/UCLA Today (Wednesday)

Last month, a group of young people from across Los Angeles stepped hesitantly into the crowded lunch area of Woodrow Wilson High School, clutching video cameras, recording devices, pens and notepads. Unsure of what to do at first, these students from historically underachieving high schools in Los Angeles then began to break out of their huddle to get what they came for: honest answers from other students to bold questions: “How do you feel about school police on campus?” and “Do you feel like you have a voice on this campus?” This was the start of a unique research project for high school students participating in a summer seminar held by UCLA’s Institute of Democracy, Education and Access (IDEA).

School district’s ‘A-G’ program promises to make university prep classes standard by 2012. In three years, it has made little headway.
By Jason Song/Los Angeles Times (Wednesday)

Three years ago, Roosevelt High School student Jose Orea went to Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters and handed out pamphlets imploring officials to provide more college preparatory courses. It was the first time he’d gotten involved in politics, and he was filled with enthusiasm. When the L.A. Board of Education agreed to ensure that all students would have access to the classes by 2006 and to require them for the class of 2012, Orea, then a sophomore, thought he’d made a difference.

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