Less Than Half of Students Achieve Proficiency on Calif. Common-Core Exams

By Andrew Ujifusa — September 09, 2015 2 min read
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California’s Smarter Balanced test results released Wednesday show that 44 percent of test-takers were proficient or better in English/language arts, while 33 percent achieved at least proficiency in math.

According to the state education department, 16 percent of students exceeded the standard for proficiency in English/language arts, while 28 percent met the standard. In math, 14 percent exceeded the standard, while 19 percent met it. In addition, the department reported that one-quarter of test-takers statewide “nearly” met the standard in English/language arts, while 29 percent were classified that way in math.

The results from the Smarter Balanced exam, which is aligned to the Common Core State Standards and was given to California students in grades 3-8 and 11, represent a significant departure from statewide test scores from the 2012-13 school year, the last time California reported such statewide test scores. In 2012-13 on the state’s STAR exams, 56 percent of students statewide were at least proficient in E/LA, while 51 percent achieved proficiency in math.

In case you were wondering, the reason California doesn’t have statewide test scores for 2013-14 reveals just how complicated the assessment landscape has become across the country. In short, the state received permission from the U.S. Department of Education to only administer Smarter Balanced field tests as its statewide exam for 2013-14.

Comparisons to Other States’ Test Scores

On the Smarter Balanced exams, 31 percent of economically disadvantaged students in California achieved proficiency in E/LA, while 21 percent of those students did so in math, according to information from the department. Among English-language learners, 11 percent achieved proficiency in both E/LA and math. Both of those groups are at the center of the state’s fundamental overhaul of its school finance and accountability systems that began two years ago.

Unlike in another left-leaning state, New York, the opt-out movement failed to get a lot of traction in California. Less than 1 percent of eligible test-takers opted out of taking Smarter Balanced in California, according to preliminary figures from the state.

You can compare California’s performance on Smarter Balanced to Missouri’s scores, which were released last month, as well as to Delaware’s scores and preliminary results released by Idaho, Oregon, and Washington state in July.

The Smarter Balanced score are “our starting point as a state” and represent a baseline from which to gauge progress in the future, Superintendent Tom Torlakson said in a statement.

“California’s new standards and tests are challenging for schools to teach and for students to learn, so I am encouraged that many students are at or near achievement standards,” Torlakson said in the statement. “However, just as we expected, many students need to make more progress.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.