County districts show gains on STAR tests 

San Mateo County students continued to surpass their statewide peers in the California Standardized Testing and Reporting program, according to results released by the California Department of Education on Tuesday.

The number of county fourth-graders scoring at or above proficiency levels rose from 2005 to 2006 in both English and math, while more county seventh-graders scored proficient or better on the math portion of the test and 10th-graders held steady on the English portion.

"We’ve had positive growth over the last three years since 2003 in just about every grade level and subject area," said Peter Burchyns, special adviser to Superintendent Jean Holbrook of the San Mateo County Office of Education.

The highest-scoring districts included Hillsborough City Elementary District, Las Lomitas Elementary School District, Menlo Park Elementary District and Burlingame Elementary School District. Burlingame also showed some of the biggest gains among fourth-graders, as 9 percent more scored proficient or better on the English exam and 14 percent more scored proficient or better on the math exam.

"When I look at the scores, I see consistently high expectations and consistently high achievement across the board," said Modell Marlow Andersen, director of educational service for the Hillsborough City Elementary District, where 88 percent to 98 percent of fourth-graders reached proficiency levels. "It’s because we have high expectations, highly trained professional staff, adequate materials and the full support of parents."

By contrast, the lowest-scoring districts included the Jefferson Elementary School District, the Jefferson Union High School District, the South San Francisco Unified School District and the Redwood City School District. Both Jefferson districts had a 4 percent gain among students scoring proficient or better on the English test, and all four districts had 2 percent to 4 percent gains among students meeting proficiency standards in English and math.

Jefferson’s high schools, particularly Oceana and Terra Nova, showed notable gains among 10th-graders, which officials saw as a sign that instruction is heading in the appropriate direction.

"There’s an effort at Terra Nova to take the test very seriously," said Gary Johnson, deputy superintendent for the Jefferson Union High School District, who said the district is learning to more closely match its curriculum with STAR standards. "We’re converting from trial-and-error courses of study to one that’s more traditional, and as we realign I think we will see continued growth."

The STAR program and the California Standards Tests are used to determine how well students are meeting state-mandated standards. The scores are also factored into the Annual Performance Index and Annual Yearly Progress reports, required by the federal No Child Left Behind program.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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