For the first time in a decade, student scores on standardized tests in English language arts and math slipped in California, after seeing steady gains since 2004.
In the East Bay, scores dropped from last year in more than half the districts in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, although the overall scores for each county were higher than those for students statewide.
Tom Torlakson, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, said the minor slide in 2013 might be attributed to ongoing budget cuts and the state's shift to new Common Core Curriculum standards. In light of that, he said the Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR, test scores released Thursday still showed great improvement over those from 2003, when the tests were first administered.
"As you would expect for a school system in transition, results varied from grade to grade, subject to subject, and school to school, but the big picture is one of remarkable resilience despite the challenges," Torlakson said."
Despite the decline, more than 60 percent of students in both Alameda and Contra Costa counties met proficiency goals in English, and more than 55 percent attained the goals in math.
Scores in individual East Bay districts varied widely, with more than half scoring higher than the state average, 10 scoring below it and three posting scores in one subject below the state average, while beating the state average in the other.
The East Bay district with the highest percentage of students meeting proficiency goals was Orinda Union in Contra Costa County, where more than 91 percent of students met or exceeded state goals in both English and math. The Hayward district in Alameda County had the lowest percentage of students meeting English proficiency goals, 41 percent, although its mathematics scores increased.
The district is putting programs into place to help low-income and minority students and developing teams to help struggling students by addressing problems outside the classroom that affect their academic performance, said Matt Wayne, Hayward assistant superintendent for education services.
The Liberty Union High School District in Contra Costa County had the lowest percentage of students meeting math goals, with 27 percent proficient or better. But Mary Vinciguerra, assistant superintendent of educational services, said the district has improved over five years, noting that 16.7 percent of students met the proficiency standard in math in 2009.
Across California, 56.4 percent of students in grades 2-11 met proficiency goals in English language arts, a drop of nearly 1 percentage point. Statewide, 51.2 percent of students met the goals for math, a 0.3 percentage point decline.
Students were ranked according to five performance levels: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic. The state's goal is for all students to score proficient or higher.
The statewide scores continued to reflect an achievement gap among African-American, Latino, low-income and English learners, compared with their peers. The newly adopted state budget will allocate more money to districts with disadvantaged students, which is expected to help them overcome the achievement gap by providing extra programs and services.
The state's new curriculum standards are expected to provide students with a deeper understanding of what they are learning, along with more sophisticated computerized tests. This year, Torlakson said, may be the last time many students take STAR tests.
Oakland dropped more than 2 percentage points in English and more than 3 percentage points in math. Spokesman Troy Flint said that was expected because the district has moved from the old curriculum standards on the STAR test to the new Common Core standards. The Martinez district said the same thing, after dropping 2.7 percentage points in English and 0.7 percentage points in math.
STAR scores will be used to calculate Academic Performance Index and Adequate Yearly Progress scores for each school and district, which will be released next month. Byron district Superintendent Debbie Burnette said her staff is looking forward to receiving that information to better assess its progress. Still, that tiny district bucked the trend of declining scores by improving 1.2 percentage points in English and nearly 5 percentage points in math.
Pittsburg Superintendent Linda Rondeau said it's important to look at progress over time in the district, which saw a 0.1 percentage point increase in English but dropped 3.5 percentage points in math.
Staff writers Paul Burgarino, Rowena Coetsee, Eve Mitchell, Rebecca Parr and Lisa P. White contributed to this story. Theresa Harrington covers education. Reach her at 925-945-4764. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa or www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment.
PERCENTAGE OF EAST BAY DISTRICT STUDENTS SCORING "PROFICIENT" OR BETTER IN 2013
CALIFORNIA 56.4 51.2
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY 62.3 55.7
Acalanes 87.1 56.3
Antioch 47.3 38.9
Brentwood 68.7 70.3
Byron 65.6 70.3
Canyon 81.1 66.0
John Swett 47.6 43.2
Knightsen 56.1 68.2
Lafayette 86.4 87.4
Liberty 63.5 27.0
Martinez 66.3 64.9
Moraga 91.2 89.1
Mt. Diablo 58.0 53.3
Oakley 56.9 54.2
Orinda 91.6 91.1
Pittsburg 43.4 40.0
San Ramon 84.9 78.5
Walnut Creek 80.1 80.9
West Contra Costa 42.3 37.7
ALAMEDA COUNTY 61.3 55.2
Alameda City 70.8 63.1
Albany 77.9 74.7
Berkeley 66.6 57.9
Castro Valley 73.8 64.8
Dublin 79.4 74.1
Emery 44.9 38.1
Fremont 78.2 72.6
Hayward 41.0 37.9
Livermore 68.8 60.5
New Haven 55 42.9
Newark 55.6 53.3
Oakland 43.0 41.4
Piedmont 88.5 80.8
Pleasanton 83.4 72.5
San Leandro 46.7 36.8
San Lorenzo 44.7 38.0
Sunol Glen 81.1 89.3
Source: California Department of Education, summary-level data
Detailed results, including school scores, are available at www.cde.ca.gov.