Del Mar Union School District earns high scores on state testing

The DMUSD office building in Torrey Hills.
(Karen Billing)

Del Mar Union School District students performed at the top 1% in the state and had the highest percentage of students who exceeded the standards in English and math in San Diego County.

Per the results of the California Assessment of Student Performance Progress (CAASPP) tests shared at the Nov. 16 board meeting, 84% of Del Mar students in grades third through sixth met or exceeded the standards in English language arts (ELA) and 84% met the mark in math. Del Mar ranks highly when compared to the 47% of students in the state that met or exceeded the standards in ELA and the 53% that did in the county. In math, just 33% of students in the state met or exceeded standards and 39% did in the county—both the county and the state have not had such a low passage rate since 2015, the year the state debuted its current Smarter Balanced exams.

While many school districts experienced drops in performance due to the pandemic, Vivian Firestone, the district’s coordinator of assessment, data and integrated technology, said the district’s scores were stable between 2019 and now. At Ocean Air, the scores even increased from 2019—the top performing school in the district saw 94% of students meet or exceed the standards in ELA and 92% scored proficient in math. Two individual schools experienced larger decreases in scores since 2019 including Sycamore Ridge, which had a nine-point drop in ELA and a 14-point drop in math to 67% scoring proficient or advanced. Del Mar Hills Academy saw a 10-point drop in ELA.

The district saw increases in the scores from the special education population and their English language learners outperformed the state and county averages in math. Students in the district’s online distance learning program Launch actually scored higher than the overall district population with 92% proficient and advanced in ELA and 90% in math.

“While we celebrate the overall performance of our students we are also working to support our students who have demonstrated academic need,” Firestone said. “We start by making sure that we have caring and knowledgeable teachers in every classroom.”

Recognizing that test scores are just one measure of student performance, Firestone said the district works to support children through social-emotional learning and help from counselors to ensure all kids are able to learn and thrive. She said the district should be proud that its dedicated teachers successfully supported students during such challenging times.

“While I wouldn’t have wanted to relive this experience ever again I am grateful to have worked in this district during the pandemic,” she said.

At the Nov. 16 meeting, the board was impressed by the students’ “incredible” results. Trustee Katherine Fitzpatrick did want to acknowledge the 15% of students who are not meeting the standards. She said she hoped the district could try annually to decrease that number and get it into the single digits.