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Education

Del Mar school district students outperform county, state on new state tests

Del Mar Union School District students significantly outperformed students in the county and the state on the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the comprehensive tests that accompany the new Common Core State Standards.

The SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) test, given in spring 2015 by CAASPP (California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, replaced the STAR test which became inoperative in July 2013.

The SBAC is a comprehensive assessment in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics, measuring grade level learning through a computer adaptive test and a performance-based task.

District students were more than up to the task.

“Our district is one of the top-performing districts in the state, if not the top performer in the state,” said Shelley Petersen, assistant superintendent of instructional services at the school board’s Sept. 16 meeting. “Not by a little, but by a lot.”

In ELA, 90 percent of DMUSD fifth-graders met or exceeded standards, compared with 52 percent in the county and 44 percent in the state. At the third-grade level, where only 38 percent of students in California met or exceeded ELA standards, 86 percent of DMUSD students did.

Sixty-five percent of DMUSD third-graders exceeded ELA standards, compared with only 18 percent statewide.

In mathematics, 88 percent of DMUSD third-graders met or exceeded standards compared with 47 percent in the county and 40 percent in the state. Sixty-seven percent of DMUSD fifth-graders exceeded the math standards, compared with 20 percent in the county and 15 percent in the state.

Petersen said she was very impressed with the number of students who exceeded standards in math, given all of the changes they had to deal with in Common Core, which demanded a deeper level of understanding and a whole new way of learning about numbers.

“We know that these scores didn’t happen by accident. We know that it is through intention, high-quality professional learning and an investment in our teachers and a sustained focus, that’s why we have the results that we have,” Petersen said.

Petersen said the district has had an “unwavering focus” when it came to readying for Common Core, and it wasn’t always easy. They dealt with a lack of substitute teachers as teachers went through professional development over the past few years, but they made sure their implementation of the new standards was deliberate and purposeful.

The trustees were congratulatory to the district for their efforts and were happy to be a part of it.

Trustee Kristin Gibson said it was obvious there are practices going on in DMUSD that other districts can benefit from, and she would love for that information to be shared so they can see how they can make a difference.

“I’m worried for the other kids who deserve this and aren’t getting it,” Gibson said.

President Doug Rafner noted that the district’s success was programmatic and system-wide, but also a result of great leadership. As Rafner said, it’s not a switch that can be flipped — it’s a road map. The district made a commitment and it didn’t happen overnight, he said.

“I’ll share with anybody who will listen because I’m very, very proud of our teachers and the leadership that takes place in our district,” Petersen said. “I absolutely refuse to dismiss our test scores due to our demographics. I would put our teachers and the work we do in any district anywhere and we would see marked results.”