District students outperform county and state counterparts in testing

FALLBROOK — Students throughout the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District have reason to be proud. Not only does state standardized testing show that they made gains in math and English language arts, but they also outpaced their peers on both the county and state levels.

And while scores on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) exams remained steady throughout the state, FUESD students made improvements in both the subjects tested. Overall, scores went up 2 percent in English language arts and a remarkable 7 percent in math.

The results of the 2017 CAASPP, better known as the Smarter Balanced tests, show 57 percent of district students meet or exceed the state standard in English language arts and 45 percent meet or exceed the state standard in math.

“We are very proud of the continued growth in student learning in the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District,” Superintendent Candace Singh said. “Our teachers, leaders and support staff work extremely hard every day to ensure our students have the very best learning environments possible.”

In addition, the significant progress of FUESD students in math was heralded in WestEd, a prominent non-profit that focuses on best practices in education. WestEd credited the district with narrowing the achievement gap for English learners and special education students, citing the development as a strong contributor to the district’s success.

Methods used by FUESD to improve student math scores include working with UC Irvine to focus the curriculum on the state’s mathematics framework, providing coaching for teachers and forming district teams to develop benchmark assessments.

A breakdown of the district’s 2017 Smarter Balanced results by grade level show that in:

  • 3rd grade: 61 percent of students meet or exceed the state standard in  English language arts and 62 percent meet or exceed the state standard  in math.
  • 4th grade: 58 percent meet or exceed the state standard in English language arts and 48 percent meet or exceed the state standard in math.
  • 5th grade: 55 percent meet or exceed the state standard in English language arts and 41 percent meet or exceed the state standard in math.
  • 6th grade: 60 percent meet or exceed the state standard in English language arts and 43 percent meet or exceed the state standard in math.
  • 7th grade: 56 percent meet or exceed the state standard in English language arts and 40 percent meet or exceed the state standard in math.
  • 8th grade: 51 percent meet or exceed the state standard in English language arts and 33 percent meet or exceed the state standard in math.

“By focusing on our students’ strengths, talents and aspirations, we are engaging students in their learning in very meaningful ways,” Dr. Singh said. “The results can be seen in our continued increases in student achievement.”

This is the third year California students have taken the assessment, which is intended to show how well they understand Common Core state standards. The students who meet or exceed the standard are considered to be proficient.

The Smarter Balanced tests were given to a total of 3.2 million students statewide in third through eighth grades and 11th grade in the spring. About 3,000 district students took the online exams this year.

Across the state, more than 48 percent of all students meet or exceed the state standard in English language arts and more than 37 percent meet or exceed the state standard in math.

In San Diego County, 56 percent of all students meet or exceed the state standard in English language arts and 44 percent of students meet or exceed the state standard in math.

Smarter Balanced tests are comprised of two parts: a computer assessment and a performance task, according to the state Department of Education.

The assessment determines follow-up questions based on students’ answers, which experts have found leads to a more accurate picture of student progress than traditional multiple choice tests. If  students answer a question correctly, a more difficult question follows. If they answer incorrectly, they receive an easier question.

The task challenges students’ ability to use their knowledge and skills to solve real world problems. The two parts combine to measure depth of understanding, writing, research, and problem-solving skills.

Scores are measured according to four achievement levels: standard exceeded, standard met, standard nearly met, and standard not met.

The Fallbrook Union Elementary School District serves 5,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade at nine schools, including two campuses located on the United State Marine Corps Base at Camp Pendleton. Its total budget for the 2017-18 school year is $53.8 million.

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