Most local school districts still test below state average

Visalia Unified schools exceeding state average while Farmersville Unified continues to struggle in English and math

By Reggie Ellis

TULAR COUNTY – Only a quarter of local school districts are faring better than the state average in math and only a fifth are faring better in English language arts. 

In October, the California Department of Education released results from its Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) reflecting performance in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics during the 2018-2019 school year. In Tulare County, just 20% of school districts had more students meet or exceed standards in ELA than the state average of just over half (50.87%) and 27% of school districts had more students meet or exceed standards in math than the state average of more than two-thirds (39.73%). 

The good news is that Tulare County students are closing the gap. Countywide, school districts saw double the number of students improve from the previous year compared with the state average in ELA and 40% more in math. 

Outside of Harmony Magnet Academy in Strathmore, which enrolls students from anywhere in the county, the highest ELA scores were at Redwood High School, where 83% of students met or exceeded standards. El Diamante was second among traditional high schools with 71.78%, slightly better than Woodlake High School’s 71.32%. The highest scoring elementary school also came from Visalia Unified School District (VUSD) as 78.09% of Oak Grove Elementary students met state standards. Overall, VUSD was the unified school district with the highest number of students meeting ELA standards at 49.89%, just below the state average. Lindsay Unified was second with 46.66%.

Oak Grove Elementary also had the highest number of students meeting math standards with 71.15%. Redwood again topped the list of local high schools with 39.95% of its students meeting standards in math. Monache was second among high schools with 29.65%. Overall, unified school districts scored poorly in math with Cutler-Orosi having the highest number of students meeting standards at 36.69%. Dinuba Unified was second with 34.14% followed by VUSD with 33%.

Stone Corral Elementary in Yettem and Seville had the lowest scores with less than 10% of students meeting standards, 9.52% in ELA and 2.38% in math. Outside of Stone Corral and Alpaugh High School, which only had tested a dozen students, Farmersville Junior High School had the lowest scores in math with just 7.35% of students meeting standards. Farmersville Unified was also the lowest unified school district in both ELA (26.72%) and math (15.46%) with the exception of Alpaugh Unified. 

Hot Springs Elementary in California Hot Springs had the highest year-over-year growth in the number of students meeting ELA and math standards with a 22% increase, but the school only tested 15 students.  The most significant growth was at Pixley Elementary School, which saw a 9.40% increase in students meeting ELA standards among its nearly 650 students. Hope Elementary School in Porterville saw a significant increase in math scores with a quarter of its 250 students improving to meet or exceed the standard. Among unified school districts, Lindsay saw the most growth in both ELA and math with 6.44% more students meeting ELA standards and 5.02% more meeting math standards than a year ago.

Sequoia Union Elementary in Lemon Cove saw the largest losses from one year to the next. Sequoia Union dropped 11 percentage points in ELA and 14 in math. Among unified school districts, Exeter saw the largest drop off in ELA (-0.59%) and Farmersville saw the largest dip in math (-3.02%). 

Performance gaps statewide have narrowed (based on tracking the same cohort over time and different cohorts over time) in ELA in most grades between Hispanic or Latino students and white students, Ever-English Learner students and English Only students, and Reclassified Fluent English Proficient students and English Only students.

The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Smarter Balanced ELA and mathematics results are the basis for the academic indicator, and the Summative ELPAC contributes to the English Learner Progress indicator of the California School Dashboard. Thurmond reinforced that test results are only one measurement out of many that the state uses to evaluate schools on the California School Dashboard, which allows educators and parents to identify strengths and weaknesses. Schools and districts that are struggling across Dashboard indicators are flagged for state assistance.

This is the fifth year of the computer-based tests, which use California’s challenging academic standards and ask students to write clearly, think critically, and solve complex problems, as they will need to do in college and future careers. During this time period, less than one percent of students did not take part in the assessments due to a parent/guardian exemption, a figure that is far less than in other states.

Smarter Balanced ELA and mathematics tests consist of two parts: a computer adaptive assessment and a performance task. The computer adaptive assessment bases follow-up questions on a student’s answers in real time. If a student answers a question correctly, they get a more difficult question. If they answer incorrectly, they get an easier question.

The performance task challenges students’ ability to apply their knowledge and skills to problems in a real-world setting. The two parts measure depth of understanding, writing, research, and problem-solving skills.

Scores on the Smarter Balanced ELA and mathematics fall into one of four achievement levels: standard exceeded, standard met, standard nearly met, and standard not met. The state also computes the average scores of all tested students by grade level, called mean scale scores, which reflect the progress of all students rather than only those who changed achievement levels from one year to the next.

The CAASPP Smarter Balanced and California Alternate Assessments for ELA and mathematics can now be accessed through the CDE Public Reporting website at  There you can explore the enhanced features such as easy-to-read tables and graphs illustrating various aggregate assessment results, improved filters for student groups as well as school type, and statewide performance trend reports to support critical work in identifying and narrowing achievement gaps.

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