The San Marino Unified School District outperformed many area school districts in math, including their “notorious rival,” the La Cañada Unified School District, in the 2023 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, also known as CAASPP.
For English language arts and science on the California Science Test, or CAST, SMUSD scored among the top two districts, coming in second to LCUSD in both subjects by 1% and 5%, respectively.
Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Lena Richter gave an overview of the district’s CAASPP data to the Board of Education on Oct. 24, showing how students’ scores fared when compared to other school districts, their overall progress in meeting or exceeding standards in specific subject matter and evaluating where more attention is needed in the classroom to help students reach their full potential.
“The San Marino Unified School District has a longstanding commitment to provide a high-quality education that empowers our students to excel academically and personally,” Superintendent Linda de la Torre told the Tribune. “The recently released CAASPP scores are a testament to our collective efforts to ensure that our students are well-prepared for the challenges of today and the opportunities of tomorrow.”
Overall, the state assessment data revealed that 85.96% of San Marino students in third through eighth grades and 11th grade met or exceeded math standards districtwide, with 66.83% exceeding standards and 19.13% meeting standards. Through a year-on-year comparison of all students meeting or exceeding standards in math, growth was seen demonstrated in sixth and 11th grades. Compared to 2022, sixth grade scores this year rose 7%, to 86% from 79%, whereby results rose 16% to 84% from 68% for 11th grade.
Overall, students meeting or exceeding standards in math showed a 3% increase in 2023 to 86% from 83% in 2022.
In ELA, 86.63% of SMUSD students met or exceeded standards, with 64.93% exceeding standards and 23.70% meeting standards. A year-on-year comparison of all students meeting or exceeding standards showed growth in third, sixth, eighth and 11th grades, demonstrating that students are scoring at similar if not higher percentages in English than in pre-pandemic years. Compared to 2022, scores this year for those grade levels have risen 6%, to 92% from 86%. For third grade, scores rose 6% to 92% from 87%; sixth grade increased 5% to 92% from 87%; eighth grade rose 3% to 87% from 84%; and 11th grade rose 9% to 88% from 79%. Overall, students meeting or exceeding standards showed a 2% increase year-on-year, rising to 89% from 87%.
The CAST scores indicated that 75.09% of SMUSD students met or exceeded standards in science, with 34.58% exceeding and 23.05% meeting standards. Only fifth, eighth and 12th grade are tested in CAST. Of those students meeting or exceeding standards in science, a year-on-year comparison demonstrated growth in 12th grade. Compared to 2022, scores for that grade rose 4% to 67% from 63%. The combined grade levels rose 1% in 2023 from last year, to 75% from 74%.
“The joke is ‘Why isn’t it 100%?’” Board Clerk Jane Chon said at the meeting. “But that’s not realistic, so these numbers, for the most part, are phenomenal as evidenced by the fact that we are in the upper stratosphere of these test scores.”
Carver Elementary School students in third through fifth grade who met or exceeded standards in math made up 85.67%, with 65.29% exceeding standards and 20.38% meeting standards. In ELA, 90.56% of students met or exceeded standards, with 69.06% exceeding standards and 21.5% meeting standards. Fifth graders who met or exceeded the standard in science with CAST was 77.36%, with 41.51% exceeding standards and 35.85% meeting standards.
Valentine Elementary School students in third through fifth grade who met or exceeded standards in math consisted of 87.20%, with 70.24% exceeding standards and 16.96% meeting standards. In ELA, 86.01% of students met or exceeded standards, with 69.94% exceeding standards and 16.07% meeting standards. Fifth graders who met or exceeded the standard in science with CAST was 79.64%, with 46.90% exceeding standards and 32.74% meeting standards.
Huntington Middle School students in sixth through eighth grade who met or exceeded standards in math totaled 86.07%, with 67.59% exceeding standards and 18.48% meeting standards. In ELA, 89.32% of students met or exceeded standards, with 60.19% exceeding standards and 29.13% meeting standards. Eighth graders who met or exceeded the standard in science with CAST was 78.47%, with 44.62% exceeding standards and 33.85% meeting standards.
San Marino High School students in 11th grade who met or exceeded standards in math totaled 83.87%, with 60.75% exceeding standards and 23.12% meeting standards. In ELA, 87.92% of students met or exceeded standards, with 64.84% exceeding standards and 23.08% meeting standards. Twelfth graders who met or exceeded the standard in science with CAST was 67.05%, with 31.25% exceeding standards and 35.80% meeting standards.
“The post-pandemic growth that we’ve seen in our scores over the past couple of years exemplifies the dedication and hard work of our students, educators and the entire school community,” de la Torre said. “I want to express my profound appreciation for our exceptional teachers, support staff, and administrators, who continually strive to create an enriching and inclusive learning environment. Their unwavering dedication to the success of our students is reflected in these results.”
San Marino Unified compared its data to 13 school districts, but only it and three others — La Cañada Unified, Manhattan Beach Unified and South Pasadena Unified — ranked in the 80th percentile for meeting and exceeding standards in ELA. However, only SMUSD and LCUSD scored in that same percentage group of meeting and exceeding standards in math.
Additionally, from 2022 to 2023, SMUSD demonstrated higher growth in English and math out of nearly all of the 13 districts, with a 3% boost in meeting and exceeding standards in math and a 2% growth in ELA. In science, SMUSD ranked alongside LCUSD in the top two scores for CAST, with San Marino at 75.1% and LCUSD at 79.6%.
ACTIONABLE NEXT STEPS
This year, Richter said SMUSD kicked off the school year with a strong intentional focus on data by bringing in a consulting group, called Focused Schools, to lead administrators and staff through the process of developing data-driven schools and guide the district’s instructional practices. That data from CAASPP, unit assessments and i-Ready, an online assessment tool for teachers, are being brought back to the faculty and disseminated and analyzed with the instructional leadership teams to “dive in and see where our students are,” she said.
“We are excited that we have i-Ready as a formative diagnostic to really capture kids who need the support early on in the school year and continue to support them throughout the school year,” said Richter, who said SMUSD aims to also introduce a secondary diagnostic, which is Northwest Evaluation Association assessments in IXL, an online learning program, for students in grades six through 12, which will serve to monitor and assess students early on so teachers can better support them as the school year progresses.
Board President Shelley Ryan said that when schools are looking at formative vs. summative data in correlation to testing results like CAASPP or similar data, it is only providing a snapshot — a baseline of information. In conjunction with i-Ready, Ryan is optimistic that the tool will be able to help teachers close learning gaps in the classroom by identifying which students need more support and in which areas of study.
“The tools we give to the teachers are so important,” Ryan said. “It’s just as important as a textbook or anything else, because it’s the teacher’s craft and how skilled he or she is in terms of addressing those needs.”
SMUSD is also continuing its third year with universal design for learning, or UDL, to personalize instruction for every student and “meet them where they are and elevate them from that point,” Richter said.
Data-driven instruction, support and intervention are continuing at four of the school sites to better address the needs found through the findings, with the continuation of tutoring opportunities for students.
Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium interim testing will be administered, along with potentially expanding the CAST test to 11th graders so that there will be results to review the following year, prior to graduation.
Schools will also integrate school score cards — a report that will highlight what each school is proud of in terms of its data.
SMUSD plans to convene two Curriculum Study Committees this year, one for science and the other for social studies. The science committee will aim to adopt a new science curriculum.
“While we are proud of our student’s performance, we understand that there is always room for improvement,” de la Torre said. “The CAASPP scores serve as a valuable tool to identify areas in which we can grow and refine our educational programs to better serve our students. We will use this data to inform our decisions and make necessary adjustments to ensure that we maintain and enhance the quality of education in our district.
“Furthermore, we remain focused on fostering a well-rounded educational experience that not only encompasses academic success but also encourages social and emotional growth.”
First published in the Nov. 9 issue of the San Marino Tribune