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Test Results Show Steady Gains for Berkeley, State

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 21, 2008 - 09:00:00 AM

The results for California’s 2008 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program show a higher percentage of students in the Berkeley Unified School District scored proficient or above in reading, writing and mathematics compared with the state results. 

In English Language Arts, 51.9 percent of the students in Berkeley Unified scored proficient or above, compared with 46 percent in California as a whole, and 46.9 percent students scored proficient or above in math compared with the state’s 43 percent. 

District Superintendent Bill Huyett and Berkeley Board of Education President John Selaw-sky could not be reached immediately for comment. 

Students taking the California Standardized tests don’t receive scores. 

Instead, their tests are grouped into categories such as advanced, proficient, basic, below basic, and far below basic. 

The Board of Education has established the proficient level as the desired achievement goal for all students, which is consistent with school-growth targets for state accountability and the federal No Child Left Behind requirements. 

The results—released by the state Department of Education Aug. 14—show that California public school students continue to make steady gains in English-language arts, math, science and social science. 

Since 2003, 532,494 more students in the state have become more proficient in English language arts and 415,129 more students have become proficient in math. 

“While we still have a lot of work to do to reach our goal of universal proficiency, this year’s gains are particularly encouraging considering they build upon five years of steady growth,” State Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell said. “The results also show significant increases in science and social science. California has some of the highest standards in the nation, and I am exceptionally proud of the hard work and dedication of our students, teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, and parents that led to this achievement.” 

In 2008, 46 percent of students in California scored proficient or advanced in English-language arts and 43 percent scored proficient or advanced in math. 

Five years ago the rates of proficient or advanced was 35 percent in English and 35 percent in math. 

However, overall proficiency rates for Latino and African American students were significantly lower than those of white or Asian students. 

“While we celebrate the progress made by all subgroups of students over the last five years, we cannot lose sight of the fact that more than half of our students, and too many students of color, are still not meeting our high standards,” O’Connell said. “It is good news that all students continue to improve. It is imperative that we help those students who have historically struggled the most to accelerate their learning so they may effectively and fully participate in school, the workforce, and in society.” 

African American and Latino students who are not economically disadvantaged continue to score lower in math than white students who are economically disadvantaged. 

“It is a moral and economic imperative that we close the achievement gap. California cannot afford to allow our Latino students and our African American students to continue to lag academically behind their peers,” O’Connell said. “While we must close the gap that exists between all subgroups, I am acutely concerned about our African American students. African American students as a whole scored in English-language arts just one point above Latino students, a subgroup that includes a significant number of English learners. This, coupled with an alarming dropout rate among African Americans, indicates a crisis in the education of black children.” 

O’Connell told reporters during a teleconference Thursday morning that state educators had made recommendations aimed at closing the achievement gap and improving services to African American students, including introducing rigorous curriculum and coursework and a greater access to technology.