Orange County students outpace the rest of California on new standards-aligned assessments

Orange County students have outperformed their state and regional counterparts on new computer-based assessments aligned with California’s English and math instructional standards, according to results released Wednesday by the California Department of Education.

Because the new assessments are so fundamentally different from previous exams, initial results from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP, do not allow for reliable year-to-year comparisons. Instead, this year’s scores will serve as a baseline to measure the progress students are expected to make over time.

CAASPP test results chartStudent scores are now grouped into one of four achievement levels — standard exceeded, standard met, standard nearly met and standard not met. According to reports released by the state, 53 percent of Orange County students met or exceeded the English language arts/literacy standard, while 45 percent met or exceeded the standards in mathematics. In California, 44 percent of students met or exceeded the English language arts/literacy standard and 34 percent met or exceeded the standards in math.

When you combine the number of students who met or nearly met the standards, Orange County posted rates of 76 percent in English and 72 percent in math. By contrast, the state rates were 69 percent and 62 percent, respectively.

Orange County’s percentage rates in English and mathematics came in higher at every grade level than all neighboring counties, including Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego. Scores for Orange County’s English learners, reclassified fluent-English proficient students, and students with disabilities also exceeded statewide percentages.

“For the first time, schools and districts in Orange County and elsewhere in California have the metrics needed to determine how well students are performing in alignment with 21st-century learning standards that promote problem-solving and critical thinking,” said Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares. “Over time, CAASPP scores will provide the necessary feedback to drive instructional decisions, ensuring students are on track for college and career readiness.”

Among the many ways the numbers were crunched Wednesday, English and math scores were reported based on areas or “claims” that measure specific knowledge and skills. Using this metric, 72 percent of Orange County students performed at, near or above the standard in reading, as did 75 percent in writing, 82 percent in listening and 81 percent in research/inquiry. In mathematics, Orange County students also exceeded statewide claims scores in the areas of problem-solving, concepts and procedures, and communicating reasoning.

kids-typingAdministered to about 3.2 million students in grades three through eight and 11 in the spring, the CAASPP tests for English language arts/literacy and mathematics consist of two parts. The first, an adaptive test taken on a computer, customizes follow-up questions based on student responses to show which skills and content areas have been mastered. The second portion features a performance task that asks students to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems. The two parts are intended to measure depth of understanding, writing, research and problem-solving skills.

“Certainly we have more work to do, and these early numbers reflect the monumental task of transitioning to 21st-century learning standards,” Mijares said. “At the same time, it is worth noting how well the students of Orange County performed when compared with their state and regional counterparts.”

The state also released results from the California Standards Tests for science and standards-based tests in Spanish taken by students in grades two through 11 who have been enrolled in U.S. schools less than 12 months.

In Orange County, more than 250,000 students took the CAASPP exams in the spring, participating at a rate of 96.9 percent in English and 97.6 percent in math.

Individual student reports are being sent to parents through the end of September. Meanwhile, parent guides, sample score reports, informational videos and a number of additional resources are posted on the California Department of Education’s CAASPP’s webpage. The public can access the 2014-15 CAASPP results here.