ALAMEDA -- Alameda students made slight gains on standardized tests in math and English language arts, but scores slipped statewide, reversing a trend of steady improvement since 2004.
The percentage of Alameda students scoring proficient or better in English was 70.8 percent and 63.1 percent in math, an increase of 1 percent from last year in both categories.
"Our students are continuing to achieve and improve year after year," Alameda Superintendent Kirsten Vital said about the Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR, test results. "The fact that we have sustained this positive growth over several years in the midst of extremely difficult budget times is an incredible accomplishment."
Minority students in Alameda showed improvement in geometry and Algebra 1, although district officials noted that the overall achievement gap between minority and white students remains. Geometry scores for African-American students in Alameda increased by 15 percent and scores for Hispanic students increased by 10.6 percent, the latest STAR results show.
In Algebra 1, scores for African-American students increased 5.7 percent and 12.6 percent for Hispanic students. The algebra scores for Filipino students increased 26.4 percent and for students classified as socioeconomically disadvantaged the scores were up 11.5 percent. Other notable gains were in science and history, where gains among Alameda students were up by 2.2 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively.
Nevertheless, 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, the state public schools superintendent, said this year's minor slide 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 STAR scores released Aug. 8 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 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.
Across California, 56.4 percent of students in grades 2-11 met proficiency goals in English, 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.
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. Detailed results, including school scores, are available at www.cde.ca.gov.