Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program data has been released for the 2005-06 school year and many are pleased with the results for Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD).

Dianne Talarico, new superintendent of the district, is one of them.

“The 2006 data show continuing and steady improvement in both English language arts and mathematics scores for nearly every grade compared with 2005 data,” Talarico said. “These results are part of an ongoing, longitudinal increase over the past five years.”

State superintendent of public instruction Jack O’Connell released 2006 STAR Program data Tuesday, August 15th, noting that improvements were made across the entire state.

“I am extremely pleased that these results show that California’s public school students continue to make steady gains in nearly every subject and grade level,” O’Connell said. “Since our state adopted rigorous standards for what every student should learn in every grade, and began systematically integrating those standards into classroom materials and instruction, student achievement has continued to improve.”

When students take a California Standards Test (CST), there are various levels of performance they can achieve — advanced, proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic. The State Board of Education has set the proficient level as the target for desired achievement, says Maureen Bradford, director of educational services at SMMUSD.

Overall, the percent of students who are proficient or advanced in English language arts and math has increased in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

“I think it [the data] just shows a clear and consistent pattern of growth over the past five years,” Bradford said. “And we attribute this to the fantastic work that our teachers are doing in classrooms everyday, with our students using standards-based instruction and formative assessments to guide their practice.”

Tim Walker, assistant superintendent for educational services, agrees.

“These data document strong academic growth for Santa Monica-Malibu students,” said Walker. “In addition, we see many indications that our efforts are resulting in narrowing achievement gaps for particular groups of students.”

Bradford notes the district’s continuous efforts to improve performance.

“We are continually striving for improvement, particularly to close the achievement gap between our high performing group of students and those that are still struggling,” Bradford said.

Bradford believes that the data show Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s efforts on many levels.

“I think it speaks to the quality of the education program, the quality of the teachers we hire, the instructional materials we use, and most importantly, our commitment to continuing to improve,” Bradford said.

The percent of Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District students proficient or advanced in English language arts CSTs improved in every grade from second to 11th in a five-year period (2002 to 2006). In fact, fourth grade went from 58 percent of students being proficient or advanced to 77 percent over the five years.

Grades two through six and nine and ten all had at least a ten percent increase in the number of students proficient or advanced over the same five year period.

From 2005 to 2006, the number of tenth-grade students proficient or advanced increased from 49 percent to 60 percent.

Seventh grade was the only grade that did not have an increase in students who were proficient or advanced in English language arts in 2006. The number decreased from 66 to 63 percent.

For 2006, the percent of students who are proficient or advanced in English language arts ranges from 50 percent in 11th grade to 77 percent in fourth grade.

In math, the percent of Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District students proficient or advanced increased in every grade — second through seventh — in the 2002-to-2006 period. Grades two through five all had at least a 12 percent increase over these five years.

For 2006, the percent of students proficient or advanced in math ranges from 56 percent in seventh grade to 77 percent in fourth grade.

Starting in eighth grade, students in the same grade level are enrolled in different levels of math courses — general math, algebra I and geometry — and take different CST math tests.

One notable achievement is that, in eighth-grade geometry in 2006, 94 percent of students were proficient or advanced.

Over the past three years, ninth-grade English language arts performance has increased by double-digit percentages and ninth-grade English learners and economically disadvantaged students have registered similar gains, Bradford said.

More data analysis will continue throughout the fall as the district compares its performance with the state as a whole and the county, a district official said.

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