SCUSD schools make impressive gains on state tests
Fern Bacon Middle School leads the way with a second straight year of big jumps in math, language arts

e-Connections Post Fern Bacon

Despite reductions triggered by state budget cuts, SCUSD schools increased student proficiency in English language arts, history and science as measured by the 2012 California Standards Tests (CSTs), according to data released last week.

SCUSD’s eight middle schools had the highest increase in the percentage of students scoring at or above grade level in math and language arts. The biggest increases were in English language arts scores, a rise credited to the district’s push to implement the more rigorous Common Core Standards in that subject. More than half – 55.3 percent – of SCUSD middle school students tested in the “proficient” and “advanced” ranges, an increase of 5.6 percent over 2011. Common Core math standards will be implemented this coming school year (2012-13).

“With Common Core Standards, we are pushing our students to be ready for college and 21st century careers,” said Superintendent Jonathan Raymond. “We are holding them to higher levels of learning and working hard to give our teachers the tools, strategies and content knowledge to help our children learn at these higher levels.”

Overall, SCUSD students’ English language arts proficiency increased 2.4 percent. More than 50 percent of SCUSD’s 44,000 students scored at either the “proficient” or “advanced” levels during spring testing. Students outperformed their peers in demographically similar districts in Los Angeles, Fresno and San Bernardino. Math scores, however, remained relatively flat. Common Core math standards will begin to be implemented this school year.

Among the middle schools, Fern Bacon, one of seven district Priority Schools, had the biggest increase — 15.7 percent — in the number of students scoring in the “proficient” and “advanced” ranges in English language arts. In math, Fern Bacon increased proficiency by 11.9 percent.

In 2011, about a third (34.2 percent) of Fern Bacon’s students scored at grade-level in English. This past spring, half (49.9 percent) achieved proficiency.

Fern Bacon Principal Nancy Purcell says her formula for improving student learning can be summed up in one word: “People,” she says. “Our greatest resource is human capital. Our teachers and staff go beyond the call of duty every single day to just get the job done.”

Purcell added that the test scores reveal only one aspect of Fern Bacon’s turnaround in recent years. She said the culture and climate of the school has significantly improved, which contributes to student academic success.

“Test scores are just one component of what represents quality in a school,” she says. “At Fern Bacon, we have a culture built on high expectations and compassion and kindness. Kids feel safe and happy to be here and that’s just as important.”

. Other CST highlights include:

• Theodore Judah Elementary School students gained 12.8 percent in language arts proficiency and 8.4 percent in math, the biggest gains among the SCUSD elementary schools. In addition, every Judah sixth grader scored at either proficient or advanced.
• Health Professions High School saw dramatic gains in language arts, world history, social science, math and science scores. Student proficiency in science rose 20.1 percent, the biggest gain by any SCUSD school in any subject.