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Local STAR gains small but show 3 years of growth

September 01, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

In the weeks after the release of the 2001 STAR test results, school officials are trying to put the numbers into the overall picture of education without blowing them out of proportion, while still gleaning as much information as possible.

"I believe the numbers are important," said Juan Cruz, school support coordinator for the Imperial County Office of Education.

While looking over graphs and numbers, Cruz explained that one year's worth of numbers can be misleading.

"We look for patterns and trends over time," Cruz said.

"There's more validity in patterns rather than a single snapshot," Cruz said.

Imperial County, on the whole, made some gains this year that can look insignificant. When compared to the past three years, however, the 2001 scores are part of an overall trend of growth at nearly all levels and subjects.

The greatest gains over four years, Cruz said, have been in the subject of math.


Those gains are part of the reason many districts, such as El Centro's Central Union High School District, are focusing on improving reading and language scores.

Sheri Hart, director of special projects at CUHSD, said her district has implemented several practices to improve literacy.

The silent sustained reading program CUHSD implemented last year is still in place, although teachers are encouraging students to read more books this year rather than magazines and comics.

Additionally, Southwest and Central Union high schools have implemented the accelerated reader program to test student knowledge of books they've read.

The district continues to examine the STAR results and can use the data to look at student performance not just in individual subjects but in different areas of those subjects, as well.

The Imperial Unified School District continues to examine its data, looking at dips in test scores at particular grade levels and subjects.

One such dip is the drop in reading scores in grades 7-11, Imperial Unified Superintendent Barbara Layaye told the district's Board of Trustees at last week's meeting.

The district has already implemented some programs aimed at boosting reading performance in higher grades.

Seventh-graders participate in the accelerated reader and reading renaissance programs. At Imperial High School, students engage in 30 minutes of sustained silent reading daily this year, Layaye said.

And, as in other districts, staff is aligning its curriculum to the test, Layaye said.

Layaye, like Cruz, cautioned against reading too much into this year's scores.

"What you're seeing is one measurement of student achievement," Layaye said.

"We were pleased. We were pleased with our scores," Layaye said, adding that, generally, the district's scores were above the state and county averages.

Not all districts improved.

"Our scores went down pretty much across the board," said Calexico Unified School District Superintendent Roberto Moreno.

That is not the result of poor instruction, nor does it mean the district is doing worse than in past years.

Instead, changes in state law require all students be tested. Last year, Moreno said, only 85 percent of the district's students were tested. Many of those who were not tested were designated as having limited-English proficiency and when they all took the test this year, their scores brought down the district's average, Moreno said.

While Moreno thinks the required testing of all students, even those who don't understand the language in which the test is written, is unfair, he says the district doesn't have much choice.

Calexico Unified will use the STAR results to identify the specific areas in which students need help and adjust the curriculum accordingly, Moreno said.

To find your school's scores, go to

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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