Hart district working on test scores, campus culture, climate 

The William S. Hart Union High School District office
The William S. Hart Union High School District office
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The William S. Hart Union High School District is still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically when it comes to test scores and attendance rates. 

Those were two areas of concern that were highlighted by Jen Daisher, the district’s director of special programs and professional development, at last week’s governing board meeting in which the board heard a midyear update on the district’s local control and accountability plan, or LCAP. 

Every school district in California was required by law to present this update by this past Wednesday.  

State test scores down 

The Hart district’s state test scores have dropped in recent years compared to their baseline in the 2020-21 school year, though not in every category. 

The test scores, on average, for the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (English and math) and the California Science Test are as follows: 

  • English: 44.4 points above the standard, down from 54.3 points above. That equates to 68.5% of students meeting or exceeding the state standard, above the statewide number of 46.66% and above the L.A. County number of 47.18%. 
  • Math: 14.8 points below the standard, down from three points above. That equates to 44.68% of students meeting or exceeding the standard, above the statewide number of 34.62% and the countywide number of 34.75%. 
  • Science: 46.2% of students meeting or exceeding standards, up from 44.3%. That’s compared to 30.18% meeting the standard across the state and 27.94% across the county. 

According to the California Department of Education, a score of 615 is needed in science to meet the state standard for high school and 415 for junior high. In English, the standard score for seventh-graders begins at 2,537, followed by 2,549 for eighth-graders and 2,590 for 11th-graders. For math, seventh-graders need to score at least 2,512 to reach the state standard, followed by 2,518 in eighth grade and 2,545 in 11th grade. 

Daisher said test scores in math have gone down due in part to the lack of individual instruction that was available while students were learning remotely during the pandemic. The CAASPP and CAST were not administered in 2021, and math scores were 24 points below the standard on average in 2022-23. 

“We saw a huge, huge decline in math skills, and I would also assume it’s because math is not a subject that’s easily taught independently online,” Daisher said. “So for a year of COVID and full-distance learning, our math teachers did everything they possibly could to make it engaging and interesting, and to keep kids learning math. But I would bet they would have stories about kids just saying, ‘I can’t do it by myself.’” 

According to Daisher, each school site has developed a multi-tiered system of support to help struggling students academically, behaviorally and social-emotionally. 

Governing board member Bob Jensen said he assumes scores will continue to rise incrementally as time passes since the pandemic. 

Campus culture and climate 

As most districts have reported, attendance rates have been dropping at the Hart district since the pandemic, though numbers are starting to creep back to more normal levels. 

The district is currently at an average attendance rate of 93.5%, up slightly from last year’s rate of 92.5% and well above the 85.9% that it saw in 2021-22. The year prior to the pandemic, the attendance rate was at 95.8%. 

The chronic absenteeism rate for the district is at 8.3% overall, with the junior high rate is at 15.2% — the latter well above what the numbers were prior to the pandemic. 

“That’s another reason we have developed the Be Present in School and Life campaign to address these numbers and draw attention to all the benefits for students to be in school to support their academic and social development,” Daisher said. 

Suspensions and expulsions are in line with what numbers have traditionally been, Daisher said. 

Next-level readiness 

Getting students ready for college or a career is what high schools are meant to do, and the Hart district is just under where it wants to be, according to district officials. 

According to Daisher, 94.8% of eligible students graduated last year, in line with what the district saw in 2020-21 but not quite as high as it was the previous year when the rate was 96.7%. When it comes to junior high school students, 6.4% of students were not granted promotion to high school, down from 11.7% the year before. 

Students taking advanced placement exams are actually passing at a higher rate than before the pandemic, coming in at 59% for the most recent round of testing compared to 38.4% in 2020-21 when the tests were taken during the pandemic. Those numbers increased slightly to 44.8% the next year and then 64% the following year. 

The district is also pushing for more of a focus on career and technical education for those students who would rather enter the work force immediately. The district has had 600 students complete the CTE pathway program this year, slightly down from last year’s total of 656 but more than the prior two years. 

Serving the underprivileged 

As homelessness becomes more of a problem in L.A. County and nationwide, the Hart district is working to ensure that all students have the support they need, district officials say. 

Daisher said the latest count has the homeless population in the district at more than 1,000 students out of the 21,000 total students. 

“It’s a lot for us,” Daisher said. “Our numbers continue to rise.” 

Governing board member Joe Messina said, in his previous work with homeless students, it was clear that not every person who is counted as homeless is actually living on the streets. Daisher agreed, noting that the highest number of homeless students are those who fit in the “doubled up” category, or multiple families living under the same roof. 

“That just means that a family has doubled up with another family in a home, so they have a roof over their head, which is great, but we may not have beds for everyone,” Daisher said. “It might be eight people living in a two-bedroom and so, correct they’re not on the street, on sidewalks, necessarily. But they just don’t have all of the amenities that would make for a conducive place for studying at night and having enough bathrooms for everybody or places to read quietly, things like that.” 

Daisher added that school social workers are doing what they can to provide these students with resources — laundry access, food and water, etc. — as well as a care portal in which resources needed are noted by students and then are provided via donations. 

“We’re going to do everything we can on a daily basis here and connect them with as many community resources as possible,” Daisher said. 

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