Orange County students post increases in English, math across all grade levels on latest state assessments

Orange County students made across-the-board gains on computer-based assessments aligned with California’s English and math instructional standards, according to results released Wednesday by the state Department of Education.

Approximately 3.2 million students throughout the state participated in the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP, in the spring, marking the second year the online tests were administered in grades three through eight and 11. In Orange County alone, the exams were taken by more than 250,000 students, and the latest batch of scores reveals they posted increases in each of the grade levels while outperforming their state and regional counterparts.

Student scores were once again grouped into four achievement levels — standard exceeded, standard met, standard nearly met and standard not met. According to state data, 57 percent of Orange County students met or exceeded the English language arts/literacy standard, up from 53 percent in 2015. In math, 48 percent of Orange County students met or exceeded the standard, up from 45 percent a year ago.

oc-vs-ca-standardsIn California, 49 percent of students met or exceeded the English language arts/literacy standard in 2016, and 37 percent met or exceeded the standard in math. Both represented increases from 2015.

“For the first time, we have solid data to assess the progress our schools and districts are making in their drive to promote 21st-century learning skills including problem-solving, writing and critical thinking,” Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares said. “While these early numbers underscore the challenges of transitioning to new standards with brand new assessments, they also show that Orange County educators are leading the way in their implementation, and our trajectory is highly encouraging.”

Indeed, Orange County’s percentage rates once again outpaced all neighboring counties, including Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego. Scores for the county’s English learners, reclassified fluent-English proficient students and students with disabilities also increased — and came in higher than state averages.

The CAASPP includes a number of different assessments, but the most widely administered are the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments in math and English. These measure depth of understanding, writing, research and problem-solving skills, and they consist of two parts. The first is an adaptive computer-based exam that customizes follow-up questions based on student responses, showing which skills and content areas have been mastered. A second section presents performance tasks that challenge students to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems.

Along with showing the percentages of students who met or failed to meet benchmark standards, the CAASPP report broken down knowledge and skill mastery in specific areas — referred to as “claims” — in English and math. For example, 74 percent of Orange County students performed at, near or above the standard in reading, as did 77 percent in writing, 85 percent in listening and 83 percent in research/inquiry. (Each of these scores represented increases of 2 to 3 percentage points over the previous year’s totals.) In mathematics, Orange County students also exceeded statewide claims scores in the areas of problem-solving, concepts and procedures, and communicating reasoning.

Results from the California Alternative Assessments, the 2016 CAASPP science test and standards-based tests in Spanish are scheduled to be released in the fall. The state is also working on a new accountability system to replace the API.

In the meantime, the public can access all CAASPP results and additional information here. Individual student reports are expected to be sent to parents through the end of September.