Students in San Diego County continued to show improvement on standardized tests, with higher percentages of them scoring advanced or proficient in math and English, according to results released Monday by the state Department of Education.
The improvement in scores on the 2011 Standardized Testing and Reporting Program mirrored increases seen across the state, according to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
"The significant and sustained improvements we've seen for nine consecutive years prove how hard teachers, school employees, administrators and parents are working to help students achieve despite budget cuts that have affected our schools," Torlakson said. "Their heroic teamwork is paying off for California."
More than 373,000 students in San Diego County were tested, with 60.2 percent scoring advanced or proficient in English-language arts and 54.2 percent in mathematics, according to figures released by the state. Both figures represent increases from 2010, when 58 percent of students scored advanced or proficient in English and 52.1 percent achieved those levels in math.
In the San Diego Unified School District, 58.6 percent of students scored advanced or proficient in English-language arts, up from 56.1 percent last year. In math, 51 percent scored advanced or proficient, an increase from 48.6 percent last year.
There were also gains in science and history and social sciences. In science, 61 percent made the state standard, up 4 points from last year, and in history/social sciences, the figure was 49 percent, up 3 points.
"Our schools are steadily making progress," said SD Unified Deputy Superintendent for Academics Nellie Meyer.
According to the SDUSD, this is the fifth straight year of improvement, and the English scores are the best of any large, urban district in the state. Math results ranked third among similar districts.
"I congratulate all of our students, teachers and staff for this outstanding result," Superintendent Bill Kowba said. "This continued progress comes despite some of the most trying times in the long history of our district, as the budget has had significant cuts each of these years."
Meyer said one key was tracking students individually and also acknowledged the importance of teachers.
"Bringing teachers together to meet in learning communities on a regular basis," said Meyer.
The SDUSD and San Diego County numbers were all ahead of the statewide average, which shows 54.4 percent scoring advanced or proficient in English and 50.3 percent in math.
Sherman Academy in Sherman Heights was a success story, as 83 percent of the students are Spanish speakers, but the school posted gains of 23 percentage points in math and 11 percent in English.
Sherman Academy Principal Eddie Caballero said the keys are teamwork and communication.
"That ownership, that consistency of education from kindergarten through fifth grade, which is our exit grade," he said.
Torlakson noted, however, that the scores continue to show an achievement gap, with black, Latino, English-learner and low-income students lagging behind their peers.
"We have more work to do to make sure every student receives the world-class education he or she deserves and has the opportunity to achieve their dreams and contribute to the success of our state," he said. "I'm committed to that effort -- and to working with California's leaders to provide our schools and our communities with the resources they need."
"We don't know if we'll be able to sustain it," Meyer admitted. "It is a great concern. We know, though, that you need those fundamental skills in order to succeed, so we're starting with the fundamentals."
About 4.7 million students took part in the 2011 STAR program, which includes California Standards Tests, California Modified Assessment, California Alternate Performance Assessment and Standards-based Tests in Spanish for Spanish-speaking and English-learner students.
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