The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has seen a rise in the percentage of students who score at proficient or advanced levels on the California Standards Test (CST), while African American and Latino students have narrowed the achievement gap between those groups and white students since 2002, according to test results.

The California Department of Education released the STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) results August 18th for the 2008—2009 school year. STAR reports reflect student academic achievement based largely on the CST in English language arts, math, science and history. Student test scores fall into one of five levels — far below basic, below basic, basic, proficient or advanced.

The 2009 results for the Santa Monica-Malibu district show continued, steady gains in the percentage of students who score at the proficient or advanced levels on the CST, district officials note. The district continues to compare favorably both countywide and statewide in all subject areas, officials said.

“These relatively small gains over the prior year are part of a longitudinal pattern of steady and continuous improvement,” Tim Cuneo, district superintendent, said.

“This multi-year upward trend is a result of the high caliber of our classroom teachers and their ongoing efforts to improve instructional practice. Our work continues as we build a strategic plan centered on narrowing the achievement gap for students of color, economically disadvantaged students, English learners, and students with disabilities.”

Since 2002, SMMUSD has made gains of up to 17 percentage points in science and history, 14 percentage points in English language arts (ELA), and eight percentage points in mathematics.

While achievement gaps persist, they have narrowed somewhat for specific groups over time. In English language arts, African American and Latino students have gained 20 and 21 percentage points respectively since 2002, compared to gains of ten points for white students during the same time period. English learners gained 23 percentage points and economically disadvantaged students gained 19 percentage points since 2002.

Students with disabilities have made modest gains of six points over this time period. In math, gains for African American and Latino students, English learners, and economically disadvantaged students also outpace the growth made for the district as a whole, results show.

“Our community has come together with tremendous energy, commitment, and expertise to address the needs of students with disabilities,” Chief Academic Officer Dr. Sally Chou said.

“There is exciting and groundbreaking work to be done as we develop a strategic plan for improvement across the district and in our special education programs.”

Maureen Bradford, director of Assessment, Research and Evaluation, cautioned that the data for students with disabilities is not yet complete, as the state has yet to release results from tests such as the California Alternate Performance Assessment.