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December 15, 2019

High school test scores sag

Morgan Hill scores for 11th graders are higher than CA. districtwide lower

The latest state standardized test scores for 11th graders show that while Morgan Hill students continue to outpace statewide averages in English, the local scores have sagged over three years and Live Oak continues to fall below state averages in mathematics.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond last month announced the statewide results of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress for English language arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics. School districts have had access to their own results since May.

Glen Webb, the Morgan Hill Unified School District’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, cautioned against parents drawing too many conclusions from the annual state report. “The methodology that the state applies is the most extreme and misrepresentative of individual student growth,” he said.

He said this “promotes a misperception that individual student outcomes will vary more greatly by the school a student attends than is actually the case.”

The tests are given each year to third through eighth graders, and 11th graders. Districtwide in Morgan Hill, average total scores were slightly below statewide averages: 49 percent met or exceeded the state standard for English/language arts, compared to a 51 percent statewide average, and 39 percent met or exceeded state standards for math, compared to a 40 percent statewide average.

Morgan Hill’s two high schools continued to outperform lower grades, which occurs across the state.

Demographics of students in Morgan Hill more closely match the overall state demographics than Santa Clara County demographics, said Webb. Morgan Hill students start below state averages and grow over time to exceed state averages, he reported in a presentation to the Board of Education. He said Morgan Hill scores surpassed state scores by the end of middle school and widened that margin in high school.

Live Oak High School’s 11th grade scores in math, at 33 percent improved slightly over the past two years, but still fell below the state’s 40 percent average. At Ann Sobrato High, math scores of 49 percent still topped the state average, but reflected a three-year slide from 56 percent in 2016-17.

In English/language arts, the Morgan Hill 11th graders in both schools topped statewide averages, with 55 percent at Live Oak, and 69 percent at Sobrato. These scores also reflect a drop from previous highs of 68 percent in 2018-19 at Live Oak, and 74 percent at 2016-17 in Sobrato.

Webb cautioned that one-year changes in test scores do not reflect student growth from year to year. They reflect changes in a particular grade level from year to year.

“At the student, classroom, school and district level, relying solely on the state tests can feel a bit like driving with loose lug nuts,” Webb reported.

He concluded that “each school, representing the range of high to low performing schools, has areas of strength and challenge.” He said the test scores identify support and professional development needed at various grade levels. Morgan Hill principals have participated in a data analysis workshop “to identify areas of strength and challenges.”

Webb said looking at a “cohort” —following the test results for a single class through the grades—“is a more meaningful metric than one-year change.”

Webb said “learning rates” are a much better way to measure how much students’ scores improve each year. In Morgan Hill, students learn 7 percent more each grade than the U.S. average. He added that the learning rates in Morgan Hill are 1.32 percent higher than in districts with similar socioeconomic status.

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