The first rollout of 2009-10 school testing data hit the Internet on Monday. Scores for Stanislaus County as a whole and California nudged up just a couple of points.
Many of Stanislaus County's 19 regular schools on the state list of 1,000 lowest-performing schools did very well. At the high end of the scale, however, the county's three schools in the top tier last year lost some ground.
State performance rankings, slated for release Aug. 31, are calculated using these initial test scores, in addition to weaving in how poor children, English learners and others fared.
Modesto City Schools Superintendent Arturo Flores said Monday that it was "too hard to tell" what the exact numbers will be, but he expects several schools in his district to take the first step toward getting off the state watch list.
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The Modesto high school district, which is being closely watched by the state, showed some improvement. Not enough, however, to end state scrutiny, Flores said.
"I think the high schools showed good growth. It's a matter of them staying the course," he said.
Two of three closely watched Modesto City elementary schools did better in 2010.
At Robertson Road Elementary, on the state list of 188 lowest-performing schools, numbers of students testing at least "proficient" jumped 20 percent for second-graders in reading and 23 percent for sixth-graders in math.
At Harriette Kirschen Elementary, fourth- and fifth-graders shot up in English and math, and second-graders made steady progress. Fourth-graders at Bret Harte Elementary improved markedly, but other grades lost ground.
Modesto City Schools as a district showed strong progress in reading, history and especially science, but stayed essentially flat in math.
"I would say there was a real hard push by all the schools," Flores said, adding that raising expectations has helped. The district has aligned periodic classroom tests to give it a good read on how students will score, he said, so there were few surprises in the scores. The boost in science scores, though, was a bright spot, he said.
The scores were widely anticipated as one measure of how effective changes Flores has made have been. His strategic plan draws on data and best teaching practices to support them, he said.
"It's really a compliment more to the teachers," Flores said. "It does give you that focus, gets all the arrows pointed in the same direction."
Turlock school results
In Turlock, administrators celebrated significant gains at most schools.
"This is unbelievable growth," said Lacrisha Fer- riera, Turlock Unified School District's assistant superintendent for educational serv-ices.
She noted double-digit increases at Wakefield Elementary School, a low-performing school on the city's west side. For instance, the percentage of sixth-grade students ranking "proficient" or "advanced" in math rose from 26 percent to 50 percent. Wakefield sixth-graders also made big gains in English, going from 33 percent to 42 percent.
"We've really gotten back to the basics in this district," Ferriera said. She said the district has emphasized curriculum, instruction and constant assessment to see what's working. "Our district is heading in the right direction."
One school that didn't fare as well was Cunningham Elementary, where 35 percent of sixth-graders scored at least "proficient" in math, still a 5 percent increase. However, 2 percent fewer students met that level in reading. Second-graders lost ground in both areas, dropping 9 percent in reading and 3 percent in math.
The district implemented a controversial turn-around plan at Cunningham after the last school year, reassigning and replacing much of the faculty and staff.
Ferriera said she realizes the situation at Cunningham is tumultuous, but she hopes when parents see the scores they'll realize, "Now we know why they went in there and did what they did."
Turlock High School, placed on a state watch list before a successful appeal earlier this year, posted gains in English, math and some science classes.
"There's just been some amazing progress made," said Superintendent Sonny Da Marto. "We've got a long ways to go. But it renews your energy to continue on because we see the progress. ... It's exciting for the kids."
Ceres test scores
In Ceres Unified School District, achievement at the upper levels was fairly flat. But Deputy Superintendent Mary Jones said Monday that was not the top concern for the district.
"We're focused on how we moved kids up from those below basic and far below basic levels. that's how we close that achievement gap," Jones said. It's also how the district will move schools up and off the state watch list, because those lowest pupil scores are weighted, she explained.
"Basically, we felt we did pretty well this year," Jones said, although she had no predictions for moving schools off the list this year. "We're just pulling the data ourselves."
Ceres has two elementary schools, Caswell and Walter White, on the state's lowest 1,000 list. Caswell had solid improvement in reading, but dropped a bit in math. Walter White's third- and sixth- graders picked up, but other grades slipped.
Top schools lose ground
At the three schools that tested at the very top in 2009, this year's results were not as stellar.
Modesto's Lakewood Elementary, which has strong parent involvement supporting an enriched arts program, had mixed results. Gains for second- and fourth-graders were strong, but sixth-graders stayed flat, and third and fifth-grade scores were down.
Test results were off for second- through fourth-graders at Aspire University Charter, a public school run by a nonprofit corporation. Last year virtually all its third-graders, 98 percent, scored proficient or advanced in math. This year that number was a still-respectable 88 percent. Fifth-graders' scores in math and reading went up. A representative for the school at its Oakland headquarters was unavailable for comment Monday.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2339.
Bee Turlock reporter Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.