School report

Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District was among the vast majority of South Bay districts that saw improved student performance on state standardized tests, new data from the state revealed Wednesday.

Testing results released Wednesday by the state Department of Education show an almost across-the-board increase in the number of students who performed well on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress testing, the state’s 2-year-old standardized test system. The first round of test scores released last year based on the CAASPP system were largely disappointing, as many schools saw a significant drop in the performance numbers they were used to receiving under the previous system.

Peninsula schools performed well above state averages last year and this year, and the district as a whole outpaced state English and math standards by more than 30 percentage points, despite some decreases in individual school’s performances.

District wide, 80 percent of students met or exceeded state standards in English, up three percentage points from 2015. In math, 74 percent of students met or exceeded state standards, the highest of any South Bay district and an improvement of one percentage point over last year.

The district’s scores were strong, and officials plan to use the information from the state to continue to focus on certain areas, said PVPUSD Superintendent Don Austin.

“We had some improvements in specific areas that we’re going to dig a little deeper into,” Austin said. “Data doesn’t necessarily provide an answer, it leads us to the next right questions.”

Palos Verdes High School saw a drop in student English and math performance. The percentage of PVHS juniors who met or exceeded state English standards dropped from 72 percent last year to 62 percent this year, and the percentage of juniors who met or exceeded math standards declined by 18 percentage points, from 66 percent in 2015 to 48 percent this year.

“Our participation rate went up significantly, but those results were surprising to us,” Austin said.

Austin said district officials can only speculate on what might have caused that drop, but his guess was that students may not have given their best efforts on the tests earlier this year. He added that such shifts are an example of how data can point the district in the right direction for improvements. Still, officials aren’t worried about student performance, he said.

Statewide, the data show incremental improvements in student performance. Last year, 44 percent of California students met or exceeded English language standards. This year, 49 percent of students met or exceeded the English standard.

Last year, only 33 percent of students in the state met or exceeded math standards. This year, 37 percent met or exceeded the math standards statewide.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson attributed the higher scores to several factors, including an extra year teaching the standards, more familiarity with the online test and improved technology.

This year was the second round of CAASPP testing, which replaced the Standardized Testing and Reporting system, commonly known as STAR testing. The computer-based CAASPP testing aligns with Common Core academic standards that stress critical thinking, problem solving and preparing students for the real world.

The CAASPP scores will be factored into a report card produced by the state for each school later this year but, unlike the previous Academic Performance Index system, the scores won’t be the only factor in determining a school’s ranking. Instead, the new system will use a color-based scale, with red indicating schools in need of significant improvement and blue identifying those exceeding state goals. The system will factor in graduation rates, suspension rates and other factors with test scores.

Information on test scores is available at caaspp.cde.ca.gov.

Staff Writer Stephen Wall contributed to this article.

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