State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Releases 2013 STAR Results
Statewide scores slip slightly amid budget cuts, transition to Common Core
SACRAMENTO—Scores on the annual Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) assessments slipped by a fraction of a percentage point this year as schools dealt with ongoing budget reductions and the transition to the Common Core State Standards, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.
Students managed to hold on to the vast majority of gains posted over the last 11 years, with a majority of students statewide continuing to achieve at the proficient or advanced level in mathematics and English-language arts. Only one student in three achieved proficiency in 2003, the year that the STAR tests became fully aligned to the former state content standards.
"As you would expect for a school system in transition, results varied from grade to grade, subject to subject, and school to school, but the big picture is one of remarkable resilience despite the challenges," Torlakson said. "While we all want to see California's progress continue, these results show that in the midst of change and uncertainty, teachers and schools kept their focus on students and learning. That's a testament to the depth of their commitment to their students and the future of our state."
Torlakson also noted that schools across the state continued to deal with the effects of years of budget cuts and financial uncertainties throughout the 2012-13 school year. Led by Governor Brown, voter approval of Proposition 30 in 2012 averted $6 billion in further cuts to education budgets.
The California Standards Tests, the major component of the STAR program, were given to approximately 4.7 million students in grades two through eleven in 2013. Students attain one of five levels of performance for each subject tested: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic, and far below basic.
The State Board of Education has established the "proficient" level as the desired achievement goal for all students. That level represents a point at which students demonstrate a competent and adequate understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by the assessment at a particular grade, in a particular content area. This achievement goal is consistent with school growth targets for state accountability and requirements of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The 2013 STAR results show that a significant achievement gap continues to exist for African American, Hispanic/Latino, low-income, and English-learner students, compared to their peers.
"The long-standing achievement gap among student groups remains a matter of great concern and considerable challenge," Torlakson said. "We must move forward now so that all children—no matter where they come from or where they live—receive a world-class education that is consistent from school to school, and graduate ready to contribute to the future of our state."
Statewide, 51.2 percent of students posted a score of proficient and above in mathematics (Table 1), which was 0.3 of a percentage point lower than last year. In English-language arts, 56.4 percent of students scored proficient and above, 0.8 of a percentage point lower than in 2012. In science, 59.1 percent scored proficient and above, 0.4 of a percentage point lower than the 59.5 percent achieved in 2012. Students showed gains in history-social science, with 49.4 percent scoring at least proficient, an increase of 0.6 of a percentage point over last year's 48.8.
Looking at statewide mathematics results by grade level (Table 2), the percentage of proficient and above students rose slightly for second and fourth graders, and students taking Algebra I. There were declines among third graders, seventh graders, and high school students taking Geometry, Algebra II, and Integrated Mathematics 1. The percentage of proficient and above students was unchanged from the prior year among fifth and sixth graders as well as for students taking General Mathematics or the Summative High School Mathematics assessment.
There were similar results in English-language arts (Table 8), with gains in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above in grades nine and ten. Declines were seen among students in grades two through five, seven, and eight. Results were unchanged among sixth and eleventh grade students.
In mathematics, the percentage of Asian students scoring proficient and above increased by 1 percentage point (Table 5). African American, Filipino, and white students were unchanged from last year, while Hispanic/Latino students or those of two or more races lost a percentage point. Scores of economically disadvantaged and not economically disadvantaged students were unchanged as they were for English-only students. Scores of English learners declined by 1 percentage point.
In English-language arts (Table 10), proficient and above scores for Asian students and students who were economically disadvantaged were unchanged. For other subgroups, there were decreases of 1 to 2 percentage points.
Torlakson noted that with large-scale field testing of new computer-based assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards proposed for the coming school year, this year's results likely mark the last use of the STAR program statewide.
"As valuable as STAR has been, we're getting ready to raise the bar in California's schools," Torlakson said. "This coming year, many students will have their first chance to try tests that measure their preparation for college and the world of work. That's a huge challenge for every part of our education system—but one we have to tackle to give every student the opportunity to prepare for a bright future."
Full results can be found on the California Department of Education (CDE) Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) ResultsWeb page.