Saugus Union School District officials discussed how they once again increased scores on the statewide assessment testing over the previous year, and also how to close achievement gaps found in certain students.
Each year, K-12 students across the state take the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP, tests.
SUSD reported 66.34% of students met or exceeded standards in English language arts, and 56.06% met or exceeded the standard for math, surpassing the statewide averages in both subjects. Schools around the state, on average saw 50.87% meet or exceed standards for ELA and 39.73% meet or exceed standards for math.
The scores, according to data provided by the California Department of Education, indicate a third consecutive year of improvement for SUSD students.
For the 2017-18 tests, 64.70% and 53.28% of students met or exceeded standards in ELA and Math, respectively, and 62.71% in ELA and 51.02% in 2016-17.
“When you look at any school district across the state to see anything over 3% growth, you’re really making growth,” Superintendent Colleen Hawkins said.
One of the big things that the district was doing right last year, and what contributed to another year of improving scores, was how the district has supported staff, Hawkins said. The creation of professional learning communities, for example, has improved how teachers and staff collaborate, Hawkins said.
“You’re constantly looking at your data, looking at your standards, standardizing what you’re going to do, implementing it, assessing it,” said Hawkins. “And when I say assessing it, you’re not just giving the students a test, you’re looking at the performance of the kids.
“And it’s not just something you do in your room, it’s consistent across your grade level,” said Hawkins. “And that’s where it starts with professional learning communities, and you get three or four teachers at a grade level working together.”
Hawkins added that not only would the teachers be sharing with one another at a school site, but also they’ll start to share school site to school site. Called “consistent curriculum,” teachers will be sharing successful strategies for teaching with one another.
Other successful programs include the district using computer programs like NextGen Math across the district to give teachers a better look at how students are performing on particular standards. The district is also supporting its early literacy program, which creates lessons focused on teaching high-frequency words, phonics and phonetic awareness for grades TK-2.
In terms of current challenges, the district is still working on improving the support for English learners and students with disabilities, Hawkins said. Scores indicated the district was significantly ahead of the state average in both areas.
SUSD English language learners scored 31.04% in ELA and 23.87% in math. The statewide average for ELLs was 12.69% in English and 12.58% in math. Of the SUSD students with disabilities, 28.57% met or exceeded standards for ELA and 23.93% met or exceeded standards for math. The statewide averages were 16.26% and 12.61%, respectively.
Hawkins said the district would be first working to address English-language learner supports within the district, but would also be working on ensuring that the special education classrooms and general education classrooms are functioning as aligned entities.
“We recongize that we have some challenges ahead, we recognize that we want our overall achievement higher,” said Hawkins. “And we’re doing the work to make kids achieve more.”