Martinez Board of Education sees new test results

Tesoro gifts the Martinez Unified School District (MUSD) STEM education camp, "Camp Invention," with a check for $20,000. From left: MUSD Chairman John Fuller, student representative Blake Johnson, Tesoro's Brian Nunnally, MUSD Superintendent Rami Muth, Boardmember Kathi McLaughlin, Vice Chairperson Deidre Siguenza, Clerk Bobbi Horack and Boardmember Denise Elsken. (DONNA BETH WEILENMAN / Martinez Tribune)
Tesoro gifts the Martinez Unified School District (MUSD) STEM education camp, “Camp Invention,” with a check for $20,000 during the Sept. 14, 2015, school board meeting. From left: MUSD Chairman John Fuller, student representative Blake Johnson, Tesoro’s Brian Nunnally, MUSD Superintendent Rami Muth, Boardmember Kathi McLaughlin, Vice Chairperson Deidre Siguenza, Clerk Bobbi Horack and Boardmember Denise Elsken. (DONNA BETH WEILENMAN / Martinez Tribune)

By DONNA BETH WEILENMAN
Martinez Tribune

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Martinez Unified School District has received the results of its first round of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests, administered in spring. Before a presentation to the district Board of Education, staff members told the panel to expect lower results than from examinations given in the past.

Helen Rossi, director of student services and secondary support, reminded the Board that this is a new type of test, in alignment with Common Core state educational standards. Both English language and mathematics tests were given to Martinez students.

“We’re in a new era,” said Audrey Lee, director of curriculum and educational technology, who joined Rossi in describing the results Monday to the Board.

She explained the new testing model is the next evolution in educational expectations. In the 1970s and 1980s, graduates were expected to be competent. In the next two decades, schools employed “No Child Left Behind,” a program designed to improve proficiency.

Tesoro Senior Government and Public Affairs Representative Brian Nunnally addresses the Martinez Unified School District, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (DONNA BETH WEILENMAN / Martinez Tribune)
Tesoro Senior Government and Public Affairs Representative Brian Nunnally addresses the Martinez Unified School District, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (DONNA BETH WEILENMAN / Martinez Tribune)

Those systems taught component parts to students, but didn’t integrate them into a complete program the way the new system tries to do, she said. She compared it to swimming, in which learners grasp individual concepts of how to breathe, float and kick, but may not emerge from the lesson knowing how to swim. That has changed under Common Core, she said. “Common Core asks you to swim.”

That system attempts an integrated education that produces high school graduates who are to be ready either for a career or college. “It’s a big shift,” she said. “The entire system is changing, and it doesn’t change overnight.”

Saying that MUSD has “put its toe in the water” of Common Core, Lee praised teachers for working with students. “The teachers are amazing,” she said.

Rossi said the new tests will provide individual teachers with better breakdowns of how their students are doing, and told the Board this set of results will be the benchmark for future test scores.

In the combined English scores, Martinez students overall bettered achievements by those in Contra Costa County, and frequently did better than those in other parts of the state. In mathematics, they came close to other Contra Costa County students’ scores and again exceeded state results.

Science scores were similar to past years’ results, and Martinez students scored significantly higher than either county or state results.

“This shows what the teachers have done with Common Core,” said Boardmember Kathi McLaughlin.

But another board member, Denise Elsken, said the scores also show “the socio-economic state” and how it impacts students’ scores. “You see the more affluent and less affluent,” she said, adding that by looking at the scores, an observer can tell where more English learners attend school. Such indicators are inherent in standard tests, she said.

“I know we’re doing a darned good job,” she said, adding that she expects the new testing system to be discarded as discriminatory. “I’m tired of jumping through hoops. The teachers say this is not an indication of students’ [abilities].” She explained that some students don’t perform well on such tests and others may not handle computers well, and counseled against “putting all your eggs on one test.”

McLaughlin agreed, citing past intelligence tests that scored a child lower if he or she wasn’t familiar with the relationship of cups and saucers, and instead linked cups with tables instead.

“Next year’s test scores will be really revealing,” said Board Clerk Bobbi Horack, reminding the panel that those results may show how the district is growing into the Common Core approach.

Rossi said 59 percent of 11th graders met or exceeded literary standard expectations, with the highest percentage coming from Alhambra High School. Briones High School 11th graders scored 36 percent at or better than standard, and Vicente Martinez High School (VMHS) scored 19 percent for the same category.

The scores were refined further for reading, writing, listening and research or inquiries. Alhambra 11th graders scored at 44 percent at or near standards for reading and 41 percent for exceeding that standard; 44 percent at or near standard for writing, and 40 percent exceeding the standard; 67 percent for at or near the standard for listening and 18 percent exceeding the standard.

Briones 11th graders scored 60 percent at or near the reading standard, with 20 percent exceeding the standard; 60 percent for at or near the writing standard but none exceeding the standard; 60 percent at or near the listening standard with 10 percent exceeding the standard; and 80 percent at or near the standard for research and inquiry, with none above the standard.

For mathematics, the 248 11th graders in Martinez schools scored 40 percent at or better than standard. Again, Alhambra high schoolers scored the best, at 46 percent. VMHS scored 4 percent, and at Briones, no student met or exceeded the standard.

At VMHS, those at or near the standard for reading were 59 percent of the students taking the test, and another 11 percent exceeded the standard. In writing, 52 percent were near or at standard, although none exceeded it. In listening, 67 percent were at or near the standard, and none exceeded it. In research and inquiry, 52 percent were at or near the standard, and 4 percent were above the standard.

In mathematics, the tests analyzed concepts and procedures; problem solving, modeling and data analysis; and communicating reasoning, Rossi said.

At Alhambra, 43 percent were near or at the standard for concepts and procedures and 24 percent exceeded the standard; 58 percent were near or at the standard for problem solving, with 20 percent scoring higher; and 62 percent were at or near the standard for communicating reasoning, with 18 percent exceeding the standard.

At Briones, only 13 percent were near or at the standard, and none scored higher in concepts and procedures; 38 percent were near or at standard for problem solving and data analysis, and 75 percent were near or at standard for communicating reasoning. None scored in excess of standard.

VMHS 11th graders scored 18 percent at or near the standard for concepts and procedures; none scored higher. In problem solving, 32 percent were at or near standard and 4 percent were higher, and in communicating reasoning, 43 percent were at or near standard and 4 percent were above.

Similar language tests were given to 305 eighth graders, with 36 percent meeting standards and 11 percent exceeding overall. But when broken down according to schools, Martinez Junior High School (MJHS)’s 303 eighth graders had an overall score of 48 percent at or above the standard, while neither of the two at Briones met or exceeded the standard, although one was just a few points away from meeting the standard.

In mathematics, 303 took the test, of which 301 attend MJHS. Overall, 23 percent of eighth graders met the standard and 17 percent exceeded it. At MJHS, 20 percent met the standard and another 20 percent exceeded it, while at Briones, one student nearly met the standard, and the other had a lower score.

Rossi said she was watching the eighth grade mathematics scores, because of new algebra expectations. “The seventh grade needs pre-algebra,” she suggested to the Board.

The district’s 316 MJHS seventh graders’ literacy tests showed 43 percent met and 13 percent exceeded standards, and in math, 25 percent met and 18 percent exceeded standards.

The school’s 331 sixth graders’s literacy scores showed 37 percent met and 16 percent exceeded standards, and of the 330 who took the math exam, 23 percent met and 14 percent exceeded expectations.

John Muir, John Swett, Las Juntas and Morello Park elementary school pupils also were given tests.

Overall, 35 percent of fifth graders met and 26 exceeded the literary standards, and 25 percent met and 11 percent exceeded mathematics standards.

Of those schools, John Swett had the best overall English language score, with 76 percent meeting or exceeding standards. Behind that school came Morello Park, with 72 percent, John Muir with 57 percent and Las Juntas at 32 percent.

In mathematics, fifth graders scored a combined 36 percent meeting or exceeding standards. Morello Park had 56 fifth graders meeting or exceeding the math standard; both John Muir and John Swett had a combined 36 percent score and Las Juntas scored 9 percent in meeting or exceeding the standard.

Overall, 51 percent of fourth graders met or exceeded the standards in literature, with 67 percent of Morello Park students achieving at the same level, followed by John Muir with 48 percent; John Swett with 57 percent and Las Juntas at 28 percent for meeting or exceeding standards.

In mathematics, 40 percent of the fourth graders met or exceeded standards, with Morello Park pulling in the best score, 69 percent, followed by John Muir’s 50 percent, John Swett’s 36 percent and Las Juntas’s 8 percent.

Of the district’s third graders, 44 percent met or exceeded the literary standard, with Morello Park students setting the lead with 58 percent, followed by John Swett’s 43 percent, John Muir’s 37 percent and Las Juntas’s 29 percent.

In mathematics, 46 percent of the third graders met or exceeded the standard, with 58 percent of Morello Park’s students scoring at that level, followed by John Swett at 43 percent; John Muir at 37 percent and Las Juntas at 29 percent.

In mathematics, third graders scored 46 percent in meeting or achieving the standard, led by Morello Park’s 69 percent. Of the others, 45 percent of John Swett students, 37 percent of John Muir students and 23 percent of Las Juntas students fell into the same category.

Science tests were administered to some of the classes, too.

Of the 290 10th grade students, 26 percent were considered at a basic level, 30 percent were proficient and 29 percent were advanced in the California Standardized Tests (CST). At Alhambra High School, 25 percent were ranked basic, 31 percent were considered proficient and 32 percent were advanced. At Briones, 33 percent were basic, and none achieved higher. At VMHS, 29 percent of the students were ranked basic, 25 percent were proficient and 13 percent were ranked as advanced.

In the California Modified Assessment (CMA) tests, administered to two Alhambra students, one achieved basic level, and the other scored lower.

Of the eighth graders getting the CST, those at MJHS were the only ones to score basic or above. Of those, 11 percent were ranked basic, 20 percent were considered proficient and 6 percent were advanced.

Of the fifth graders taking the CST, 20 percent achieved basic level, with 48 percent reaching proficient and another 26 percent considered advanced. At John Muir, the scores were 26 percent in basic, 58 percent in proficient and 14 percent in advanced. At John Swett, 14 percent of the students scored at the basic level; 34 percent were proficient and 43 percent were advanced. At Las Juntas, 31 percent were at basic level, 41 percent were proficient and 9 percent were advanced. Morello Park students were 13 percent basic, 54 percent proficient and 31 percent advanced.

Those taking the CMA overall had 47 basic, 27 percent proficient and 13 percent advanced scores. Of them, half of the six at John Muir were ranked basic, 17 percent were proficient and another 17 percent were advanced. Nine more took the test at las Juntas, of which 44 percent achieved basic, 33 percent achieved proficient and 11 percent achieved advance scoring.

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