Most San Anselmo and Fairfax students are well ahead of state goals, and much of the rest of the county, according to the release of the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) results today. But in math, Drake High School students struggled to make the grade.
State and federal goals from the No Child Left Behind program aim to have all students at or above a proficient level in basic language arts and math tests by 2014.
Across the Ross Valley School District, 81 percent of students are at or above proficiency in math and 83 percent in language arts. At Drake High School, 78 percent of students in grades 9 through 11 are proficient or higher in language arts.
However, in math, Drake failed to meet math proficiency targets. Just 40 percent of students in grades 9 through 11 were proficient or higher in their respective math tests. At 40 percent, the number of students proficient or advanced at Drake is lower even than the state average of 48 percent. By comparison, Redwood achieved 53 percent proficiency or better.
"We're always trying to do better," said Tamalpais Union Assistant Superintendent Elizabeth Kaufman. Kaufman said the district is working to develop internal measures to make sure that all students are achieving their growth potential throughout the year.
Depending on their classes, students take a test in general math, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry or a comprehensive test at the end of their high school career. In both the math and language arts tests (as well as in subject science and social studies tests) students are scored as advanced, proficient, basic, below basic or far below basic.
Despite the fact that the California standard is for eight-graders to be enrolled in Algebra I, 40 ninth-graders at Drake took the general mathematics test instead of the algebra test – putting nearly one-sixth of the freshman class two years behind before they even took the test.
Of those students who took the general mathematics test, just 28 percent were proficient or advanced. In Algebra I, only 24 percent of students were proficient or advanced. In Geometry, only 51 percent were proficient or advanced. And in Algebra II, only 27 percent were proficient or advanced.
In Algebra II, a stunning 37 percent of students were below basic or far below basic and in Algebra I that number was 38 percent.
The only math area in which Drake met state goals was in the cumulative math test for 10th- and 11th-graders who had already completed Algebra I, II and Geometry. In that cumulative math test, 61 percent of the students were proficient or advanced.
"Algebra I and II are a huge challenge for many high schools," said Kaufman, who noted there is a national debate going on over algebra readiness and when a student should be placed in algebra.
The high school district is currently working with the various middle school districts that feed into it to develop pre-requisites and ensure that students have the math background to continue in high school.
California, in its goal to achieve 100 percent proficiency by 2014 (as required by No Child Left Behind), has implemented yearly goals that schools must meet. For 2009-10, the state goal is to have 58 percent of elementary students proficient or advanced in math and 54.8 percent of high school students proficient or advanced in math. In language arts, the state goal is to have 56.8 percent proficiency at the elementary and middle school levels and 55.6 percent at the high school level.
However, with just 52 percent (up from 50 percent last year) of all students in the state proficient in language arts and 48 percent (up from 46 percent last year) in math, California failed to meet these goals.
Schools that fail to meet these goal targets in the student population as a whole or in certain ethnic and socio-economic subgroups are deemed "program improvement" schools. After five years as a program improvement school, the state may implement certain sanctions ranging from a mere increase in funding to total closure of the school.
The annual STAR tests serve as a measure of student progress towards these targets, as well as reports for parents on their student's academic proficiency. Individual student results are sent home to parents over the summer; individual student results are not available at the school or state level and in no way follow a student. The results are made anonymous and non-trackable at the aggregate level.
School results are used to determine a school's Academic Performance Index (API) – a measure of its performance from year to year. In addition to STAR results, for high schools the API takes into account graduation rates and performance on the California High School Exit Exam. Along with certain yearly goal targets, schools must meet API and graduation targets.
The push to make 100 percent of students proficient, particularly in all racial and economic subgroups, was a key feature of the No Child Left Behind Act. When No Child Left Behind is renewed later this year it is expected some of the targets and standards will change.
Marin students, on a whole, performed far better than the state averages. And students throughout the Ross Valley School District, in general, performed far better than Marin County averages. In the county, 71.3 percent of students were proficient or advanced in language arts and 64.5 percent in math. In the Ross Valley District, 84.9 percent of students were proficient or advanced in language arts and 81.6 percent of students were proficient or advanced in math.
However, Drake's failure to provide its students with proficiency in math – even below that of state averages – falls below that of the state, county, and its own district.
"We're proud of our students, our community and our success. That being said we still want to make sure that every one of our students are prepared," said Kaufman.