Castaic Union School District shows dashboard growth

Castaic Union School District Building. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Castaic Union School District has continued to see growth in standardized test scores in English and English language proficiency, and continues to seek improvement in math.

Based on the Common Core State Standards, the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP, monitors students’ progress in subjects such as reading, writing skills and mathematics.

Within the past year, CUSD has increased 5.2 points in English, putting the district 21.6 points above the statewide average.

Janene Maxon, assistant superintendent for educational services at CUSD, said the increase came as a result of teachers using a “universal design for learning,” which entailed teachers looking at their students as more than that, and focusing on how the individual students best grasped concepts.

“The teachers really fine-tuned and dug deep into understanding what makes their students tick and designed lesson plans based on where their students struggle,” said Maxon.

The district also provides students with “impact teachers,” which Maxon described as experienced educators who teach smaller classes designed to help students who may struggle with a concept in English or math.

Maxon is hopeful math scores will increase with the use of impact teachers, as the district’s overall scores placed student performance at 13.7 points below the statewide average.

“We took (kindergarten) through eighth-grade staff and cross-collaborated while looking at the required CAASPP standards,” said Maxon. “We looked at lessons that may need to be repeated in the next grade and if that can give students some educational benefit.”

Maxon said she’s hopeful the math scores will increase, since the district uses the iReady program, which gives students a diagnostic test in English and math and makes student profiles so teachers can understand where individual students require improvement. 

The district saw 57.4% of English learning students making progress to language proficiency, putting the district in the high levels of the area. Across the three elementary schools and one middle school, the district has a total of 188 English-learning students.

Teachers of English-learning students use a rubric to assess how students are progressing based on the English Development Standard.

“We’re making growth, and students are progressing and becoming fluent, so we’re very pleased,” said Maxon.

Chronic absenteeism is a statewide issue, according to Maxon. Although CUSD attendance increased 1.1%, the school district still sees 7.1% of students considered “chronically absent.”

By the end of the school year, students who are absent more than 18 days are considered to be chronically absent, Maxon said. She added that although the school struggles in that area, the daily attendance rate is 96%.

“Every family has a reason as to why their child can’t come to school,” said Maxon. “We can’t control the absences, but it’s an issue that’s seen across the whole state.”

The schools in CUSD are taking initiatives in hopes to reduce the number of absences, she said. Some of the schools are offering an extra recess, a movie day and other fun activities if students meet a perfect or near-perfect attendance goal.

Maxon said the initiatives were placed in hopes of encouraging perfect attendance among students and lower the chronic absenteeism in each school.

The district maintained a low suspension rate of just 1.1%, considerably lower than the state average of 3.4%.

“We’ve worked diligently on working to help students,” said Maxon. “Understanding behavioral issues and talking with students has helped keep the suspension rate low.”

The local standards, which set a standard of basic instructional needs, parent engagement, access to a broad course of study, have all been met by the district.

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