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School outcomes are available for English and mathematics

The state-mandated examination scores in language arts (English) and mathematics are now available for local schools and the results for Plumas Unified School District schools and the two charter systems operating in Plumas County have been tabulated.

The test scores used are from spring 2016, and are the latest available.

Test outcomes from these examinations are grouped into four categories by the state: exceeded standards, met standards, nearly met standards and did not meet standards.

The scores from the three school systems were compared based on the percentage of students whose test scores met or exceeded state standards for a particular grade level.

The schools were also compared in terms of the percentage of students whose scores did not come close to meeting state standards.

Plumas Charter School has learning centers in Chester, Greenville and Quincy. Long Valley Charter School, headquartered in Susanville in Lassen County, has a resource center in Portola.

The data from PUSD traditional schools was available both by school and by grade level at each school.

The data from the two charter school systems was not available by school site. Test results were combined into a single score for each charter system at each grade level.

Outcomes for English

The percentage of PUSD students who met or exceeded state English standards was very close to the state average of approximately 50 percent.

The percentages of Plumas Charter and Long Valley Charter students who met or exceeded state English standards were 40 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

Scores in English at PUSD schools tended to be higher at secondary schools than at elementary schools.

The trend was less clear with charter school students.

The percentage of students who did not meet state English standards at PUSD schools was approximately 30 percent for grades three through six, but then dropped to 12 percent by the 11th grade.

A similar pattern appears with Plumas Charter School students, with only four percent of students not meeting state English standards by the 11th grade.

The percentage of students not meeting state English standards at Long Valley Charter Schools did not show this decline after sixth grade. Approximately 40 percent of students at Long Valley Charter Schools did not meet state English standards in the 11th grade.

Outcomes for mathematics

The percentage of students who met or exceeded state standards for mathematics by school system was similar to that found for English.

However, the percentages of students who met or exceeded state standards for mathematics at PUSD and Plumas Charter schools were lower by approximately 12 percent, as compared with English scores.

This was close to the state average, where mathematics scores were lower than English scores by 11 percent.

Long Valley Charter’s mathematics scores were lower that its English scores by 19 percent.

Again, the percentage of PUSD students who met or exceeded state standards for mathematics tended to increase after sixth grade.

The trend was less clear for Plumas Charter School students and was actually reversed for Long Valley Charter School students.

The percentage of PUSD students who did not meet state standards for mathematics did not decrease after elementary school, as it had with English scores, but stayed at around 30 percent for all grades.

Twenty-eight percent of 11th grade students at PUSD schools did not meet state standards for mathematics.

Mathematics scores for Plumas Charter School students fluctuated widely by grade level, ranging from around 20 percent to 60 percent. Twenty-eight percent of 11th grade students at PUSD schools did not meet state standards for mathematics.

Mathematics scores for Long Valley Charter Schools also fluctuated widely, ranging from 35 to 60 percent. Eighty-six percent of Long Valley Charter School 11th grade students did not meet state standards for mathematics.

Percentages on the graphs sometimes varied greatly between grade levels and schools.

Three points should be emphasized. First, the charter school systems were treated as if each existed at a single school site. For instance, test scores are not available for Long Valley Charter School’s Portola Resource Center alone. The Portola Resource Center’s scores might be higher or lower than the averages for Long Valley Charter Schools as a whole.

Second, test scores are just one measure of school outcomes, albeit a measure that is easy to quantify and grasp.

There are other measures, such as individual portfolios of accomplishments and the amount of service provided to communities.

Dropout rates and the percentage of students going to and finishing college are other examples of quantitative measures.

Third, ethnic makeup varied little between PUSD and Plumas Charter schools. The percentage of Hispanic/Latino students was the biggest difference, with 14 percent of PUSD students and 7 percent of Plumas Charter School students being Hispanic/Latino.

No data on ethnicity were available for Long Valley Charter School.

School Accountability Report Cards

The California Department of Education has additional information on each school system in California.

All California school systems, public or private, are required to publish a School Accountability Report Card for its schools by Feb. 1 of each year.

The purpose of the report card is to provide parents and communities with important information about each public school.

Included in the information available in a SARC is demographic and academic information. The academic information can include more than just test scores.

Report cards for all California schools can be found at sarconline.org.

A Parent’s Guide to SARCs can be found at cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/sa, along with frequently asked questions.

School feedback

Feather River Publishing asked each of the three school systems to respond to the information presented in this article and they all did.

Plumas United School District

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Kristy Warren, said, “With the implementation of new California standards, as well as a new statewide assessment and accountability system, PUSD has worked to prepare our teachers and students with a rigorous 21st century learning environment.”

Based on students’ examination results, Warren noted that there are areas for all schools to celebrate and areas for all schools to focus on for improvement, all within a cycle of continuous improvement.

Warren pointed out, however, “These examinations are only one assessment and one measure. Much like one test cannot represent all of the attributes of a student, neither can one test represent all aspects of a school.”

Warren emphasized that the school district will continue to focus on fulfilling its mission of collectively inspiring every child, in every classroom, every day.

Plumas Charter School

Executive Director Taletha Washburn noted that both the English and mathematics examinations are relatively new. Both were piloted for three years with students.

Last year was the first official year for the mathematics test and this year was the first official year for the English examination.

The school’s web site also cautions that the tests might not be as reliable for schools with small student populations and/or a lot of student turnover.

Most importantly, Washburn pointed out that “we have a different end game” than traditional schools.

Plumas Charter School is a “personalized learning school” where the focus is on each student discovering what his or her passions and interests are. The school’s role is to support each student in following those interests, eventually turning them into a career.

For instance, Washburn noted that the Quincy Learning Center recently had a multi-day thematic unit for all the students based on automotives. Everyone learned how automobiles work, how to change a tire and how to check the oil. Everyone learned skills involving automobiles that they will use for the rest of their lives.

Some students will go on to a career in automotive repair or some other area of the automotive industry.

Another recent thematic unit, for instance, looked at agriculture as a potential career path.

Washburn noted that Plumas Charter School has its own internal assessment system, called i-Ready, which its staff uses in addition to state examinations. She conceded that those results still showed room for improvement.

Copies of a student’s i-Ready scores can be obtained through that student’s teacher.

Washburn pointed out that any student who wants to can take the testing required for getting into college.

She emphasized that Plumas Charter School students routinely get into high-level colleges.

Long Valley Charter Schools

Executive Director-Superintendent of Long Valley Charter School Sherri Morgan pointed out that, “Long Valley provides a personalized learning program for all students in accordance with its mission to help each child achieve their highest potential, to provide opportunities for self-discovery and to prepare students for the challenges of a rapidly changing world.”

She noted, “When a student makes the choice to attend Long Valley Charter School, that student is assessed with an adaptive diagnostic which evaluates that student’s needs to the sub-skill level.”

From there, Morgan said, the school’s focus “is to meet students where they are currently and to help them grow.”

California Department of Education on testing

Tom Torlakson, California superintendent of public instruction, said about testing, “The CAASPP results [the state’s current method of testing students] give us a key measure of how well students are mastering California’s challenging academic standards in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. The skills called for by these standards — the ability to write clearly, think critically and solve problems — are critical to success in college and 21st century careers.

“No single assessment can provide teachers with all the feedback they need to tailor instruction to meet the needs of their students. These results should be considered along with other measures of learning and in consultation with a student’s teachers.”

Statewide results

This article follows from an article published in this paper on Jan. 4, which compared traditional and charter schools in California on a statewide basis.

That article was based on a study from Stanford University also using state test scores in English and mathematics. Just under a third of California charter schools outpaced traditional public schools in English and mathematics.

Another third of charter schools in California, however, underperformed traditional public schools in English and mathematics.

Thus, scores seemed to depend upon the individual charter school.

However, on average, the Stanford study found that charter schools in rural areas performed less well than charter schools in cities and suburbs.

Again, on average, the study found that individual charter schools did less well than charter schools that are part of a large chain of charter schools.

School Names

STATE: Average for all California schools

PUSD: Plumas County School District

PCS: Plumas Charter School

LVCS: Long Valley Charter School

CHS: Chester Junior/Senior High

GHS: Greenville Junior/Senior High

PHS: Portola Junior/Senior High

QHS: Quincy Junior/Senior High

CES: Chester Elementary School

IVES: Indian Valley Elementary School

RCES: C. Roy Carmichael Elementary School

QES: Quincy Elementary School

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