Education

Los Banos schools improve in English, need work in math, state test results suggest

Sixth graders Keily Santos, 12, and 11-year-old Cruz Copeland try the “Rising Water” experiment during a STEM demonstration by UC Merced students Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, at Lorena Falasco Elementary School.
Sixth graders Keily Santos, 12, and 11-year-old Cruz Copeland try the “Rising Water” experiment during a STEM demonstration by UC Merced students Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, at Lorena Falasco Elementary School. Los Banos Enterprise

Many Los Banos schools are still testing below the state average, according to the 2018 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress Smarter Balanced Assessment results.

However, Los Banos Unified School District officials are touting as accomplishments a high growth rate in language arts and reading scores, and the performance of certain grade levels at some sites that tested above county and state averages.

“While we recognize that there is still much work to be done,” Superintendent Mark Marshall said, “we are pleased with our results overall.”

The percentage of students meeting state standards in English and language arts in Los Banos was 37.86 percent, according to the results. That was below the state average of 49.88 percent and Merced County average of 39.22 percent.

The percentage of Los Banos students meeting state standards in math was 22.7 percent. That also was also below the state average of 38.65 percent and county average of 24.82 percent.

But while the scores remained lower, The Los Banos school district is among the Merced County districts that have significantly outpaced the state in improvement since 2015, the first year of the re-imagined state tests.

The school district’s improvement from last year was “on par” with the county and state, school board President Anthony Parreira said.

“We did very well in language arts in comparison to the county and state,” Parreira said, noting the improvement in scores. “We are basically flat in math, but we’re doing fine. You always want to be a little better.”

Marshall said while the average scores were, like past years, lower than state and county averages, some grade levels in schools tested higher than both.

“Moving forward, we will focus more systemically on math as our overall results in this area are basically the same as last year,” Marshall said, noting the district is striving to better align efforts and have better collaboration between the district’s schools.

“This will allow us to maximize (the) effective practices that are occurring in math in the district,” he said.

State test results show most Merced County students, as in previous years, are not keeping up with the state average.

Only the McSwain Union Elementary School District tested above the state average for meeting state standards in English and language arts with 58.75 percent, according to test results.

McSwain Union also is the only county school district that tested above the state average for meeting state standards in math, with 41.25 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards.

However, like Marshall, many Merced County educators are focused on the improvement many school districts have made since the state overhauled its testing and evaluation system.

“A challenge is that we’re below state average in more cases,” said Steve Tietjen, Merced County superintendent of schools. “But we need to do more than focus on that. The good news is that the majority of districts are seeing increases.”

Extenuating factors, including higher poverty rates, have become barriers to success in education in Merced County, Tietjen said, which is why some districts have placed priority on programs for students whose parents may not have finished school and who don’t have an “academic support system” at home.

The focus also has been on long-term growth rather than the difference in scores from the previous year. Many smaller school districts’ scores can vary greatly if families move in and out of the districts, Tietjen said.

“It’s always a challenge to look at (test scores) for school districts with under 300 students,” Tietjen said. “Are test scores a valid indicator of the content the state wants teachers to teach? Yes. Are they a reliable indicator of what students can do at any time of any day? No.”

According to a Sun-Star analysis of the data, 15 of the county’s 20 school districts have seen improvements in the number of students meeting or exceeding state standards for English and language arts since 2015. Nineteen school districts have seen improvements in math in that period.

One of the school districts that has made strides in test scores is the Le Grand Union Elementary School District.

About 34.6 percent of the district’s students met or exceeded state standards in English and language arts. It was 26.58 percent for math.

Test data shows it was 26 percent in English and language arts and 11 percent in math, in 2015.

Superintendent Scott Borba, who is relatively new to the district but familiar with its inner workings, said the district looks closely at individual student data and has a “laser focus” on identifying the individual needs of students.

“No program is ever going to raise student achievement,” Borba said. “It’s the people. ... We’re making sure we use research-based practices and focusing on that. We’re looking closely at local data and at the state level.”

Students in Merced County, as a whole, in 2018 lagged behind the English and language arts state average of 49.88 percent by more than 10 percentage points. Just 24.82 percent met state standards for math, compared with the state average of 38.65 percent.

Results for specific school districts and schools can be accessed at https://caaspp.cde.ca.gov/sb2018/Search.

Here’s how schools in the Los Banos Unified School District fared against the state and county. The numbers are the percentages of students meeting state standards in English and language arts, (ELA) and math (MATH), according to an analysis of test results.

  • State Average: 49.88% ELA, 38.65% MATH
  • Merced County Average: 39.22%, 24.82%
  • Charleston Elementary: 50.41%, 42.5%
  • Volta Elementary: 45.74%, 34.42%
  • Westside Union Elementary: 43.72%, 37.6%
  • R.M. Miano Elementary: 42.85%, 35%
  • Lorena Falasco Elementary: 38.25%, 34.02%
  • Los Banos High: 57.66%, 22.03%
  • Pacheco High: 48.09%, 14.14%
  • Mercey Springs Elementary: 34.68%, 17.6%
  • Henry Miller Elementary: 32.55%, 18.44%
  • Creekside Junior High: 35.32%, 11.9%
  • Los Banos Elementary: 29.15%, 18.52%
  • Los Banos Junior High: 30.98%, 17.9%

Here’s what percentage of students in each school district met or exceeded state standards in English and language arts (ELA) and math (MATH), according to analysis of test results.

  • State Average: 49.88% ELA, 38.65% MATH
  • Merced County Average: 39.22%, 24.82%
  • McSwain Union Elementary: 58.75%, 41.25%
  • Ballico-Cressey Elementary: 49.02%, 25.98%
  • Atwater Elementary: 47.47%, 34.84%
  • Winton: 47.23%, 35.4%
  • Merced Union High: 45.23%, 18.59%
  • Merced River Union Elementary: 42.31%, 24.28%
  • Snelling-Merced Falls Union: 41.51%, 26.41%
  • Plainsburg Union Elementary: 40.79%, 21.06%
  • Le Grand Union High: 40.4%, 26.53%
  • Merced City Elementary: 39.87%, 25.33%
  • Weaver Union: 38.76%, 34.23%
  • Los Banos Unified: 37.86%, 22.7%
  • Delhi Unified: 36.33%, 23.77%
  • Hilmar Unified: 34.91%, 19.15%
  • Le Grand Union Elementary: 34.6%, 26.58%
  • Livingston Union: 34.34%, 23.58%
  • Planada Elementary: 31.72%, 12.55%
  • El Nido Elementary: 30.17%, 18.1%
  • Gustine Unified: 28.87%, 17.02%
  • Dos Palos Oro Loma Unified: 24.05%, 12.43%

Here’s how much each school district’s test scores for meeting state standards improved or decreased since 2015, according to analysis of test results. The numbers are percentage increases or decreases between 2015 results and the latest results.

  • State Average: 13% ELA, 17% MATH
  • Merced County Average: 23%, 31%
  • Le Grand Union Elementary: 33%, 122%
  • Winton: 28%, 54%
  • Atwater Elementary: 28%, 45%
  • Weaver Union: 34%, 43%
  • Dos Palos Oro Loma Unified: 27%, 24%
  • Planada Elementary: 59%, 14%
  • Merced City Elementary: 37%, 41%
  • Los Banos Unified: 35%, 19%
  • Livingston Union: 18%, 31%
  • Gustine Unified: 20%, 22%
  • McSwain Union Elementary: 3%, 38%
  • Delhi Unified: 1%, 19%
  • Le Grand Union High: -8%, 121%
  • Merced River Union Elementary: 51%, -3%
  • Hilmar Unified: -3%, 13%
  • Ballico-Cressey Elementary: 2%, -16%
  • Merced Union High: -8%, -7%
  • Snelling-Merced Falls Union: -6%, -29%
  • El Nido Elementary: -3%, -33%
  • Plainsburg Union Elementary: -22%, -19%
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