LTUSD students keep pace on test scores with peers in state


By Kathryn Reed

Lake Tahoe Unified School District is mirroring the state when it comes to having an achievement gap among Latino, English learner, and low-income students compared to the rest of the student body.

But the good news from Friday’s announcement of the 2012 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) test results is this is the ninth consecutive year California students improved in language arts and math.

Statewide, 57 percent of students in grades 2-11 were proficient or advanced in English language arts, while 57.5 percent of LTUSD students were at those levels.

While the state superintendent of education in a press release boasted how wonderful it is students are increasingly testing better, the reality is a huge segment of California’s students are not doing grade-level work.

One thing that continues to bother LTUSD Superintendent Jim Tarwater about all the tests associated with No Child Left Behind is test score comparisons don’t reflect the actual improvement or decline as students go from one grade level to the next. Instead, today’s third-graders are compared to last year’s third-graders instead of to their test scores as second-graders.

In LTUSD, officials take the data provided by the state and then calculate how students do as they get older.

“I’m proud. We’re continually making gains,” Tarwater told Lake Tahoe News.

Bijou Community School remains the trouble spot in the district. This school also has a population of 84 percent low income, 75 percent Latino and 66 percent English learners.

The state and feds, while they separate the numbers into subcategories, the finger pointing or accolades are based on cumulative scores. Extenuating factors such as 62.5 percent LTUSD students receiving a free or reduced lunch are not considerations. This, despite the fact that study after study proves low income students often don’t have the academic help at home that their more affluent peers do and many may only be getting a hot meal at school.

Comparing Bijou to the magnet school proves this point. The magnet school has 20 percent low income, 8.2 percent Latino and 2 percent English learners.

(These are the percentages of students who are at proficient or advanced on the STAR test.)

                                               2011-12 Bijou          2011-12 Magnet

Second Grade LA                22                                    94

Second Grade Math            41                                    93

Third Grade LA                   22                                   77

Third Grade Math               50                                   94

Fourth Grade LA                 47                                  95

Fourth Grade Math             45                                  95

Fifth Grade LA                    29                                   91

Fifth Grade Math                51                                   84

Fifth Grade Science              9                                   85

(Complete results of the 2012 STAR tests are on the state Department of Education’s website.)

While all teachers are using the same pacing guide and curriculum in LTUSD, not all students learn the same.

Tarwater is a strong proponent of technology helping students learn, adding that improvement is evident in the schools and classrooms where teachers consistently have kids working on their netbooks.

In grades 3-12, each student has a netbook, in all the second-grade classrooms there is a full set, and in first grade there is one computer for every two kids.

Instead of students tuning out, they are engaged. They have work to do when the teacher is helping others. They download and upload data to their teachers. Books are downloaded like adults use Kindles and iPads.

Tarwater likes to embrace the quote by John Dewey: “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”

At the end of the month the Academic Performance Index scores will be released. This is how the schools and districts are judged on a federal level. These results also indicate if a school or district is listed as “performance improvement”. All but the magnet school is PI.

With Bijou dropping by 17 points a year ago, all eyes will be on this year’s results to see which direction the school is going. Tarwater would not comment on whether a change in leadership at the school is necessary.

With Tahoe Valley and Sierra House elementary schools making substantial gains a year ago, another year of being over 800 (1,000 is the maximum) could take them out of the PI category.



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Comments (8)
  1. bijoumom says - Posted: September 1, 2012

    Good summary Kae. Recent educational research also shows that a mix of 70% affluent with 30% poor students provides the greatest benefit to the disadvantaged without detracting from the experience of the affluent children. I believe it would help our district’s achievement and culture to have more socioeconomic equity among the 4 schools.
    The immersion program at Bijou has lowered the percentage of poor children from 95% to 84% and the district’s highest scoring math student is a Bijou student. The teachers and principals work very hard and do an excellent job with the students they are given. Our community should continue to support all of the schools and their professionals. The children are our future.

  2. Tahoeadvocate says - Posted: September 1, 2012

    The scores for Bijou are horrible. Is this systemic or unique. In either case the educational system is not providing these students what the public wants. I would hope the leaders of LTUSD are investing their fulltime and overtime effort to find the cause and correct it. If not, then new management is required. To accept 80% or less proficiency in elementary school is worrysome but the accept 50% or less borders on criminal.

  3. Local Yokle says - Posted: September 1, 2012

    What these reports do not cover is parental involvement. The differences between the Magnet School and Bijou Community School is largely the ability of Parent’s to be involved and Social Economic. It is problematic to compare these populations and schools.

    These schools have identical resources (teachers, books, etc.) and both follow the same District and State guidelines. Placing blame solely on Bijou School is out of place. Kids who have active involved Parent’s who are not struggling to pay their bills will always do better as a population than those who do not.

    We are lucky to have the schools we have, including Bijou Community School. The problem with these kinds of tests is that they are snap shots and not progress reports. LTUSD is right to say that student progress is what should be measured. This is part of the problem that standardized tests have brought. Good schools should be measured on how kids improve not based on every student being a single kind of ideal student that does not exist.

    My two cents
    -Local Yokle

  4. Art says - Posted: September 1, 2012

    Although this is an improvement, these numbers are nothing to write home about. The USA ranks well behind most developed nations, dead last in math, 27th in reading and 22nd in sceince. If we are to compete on the world stage we have to do better. Let’s get out of Afghanistan, tax the ultra rich a measly 3% more and maybe these kids will have a chance at a quality education.

  5. Art says - Posted: September 1, 2012

    oops! science

  6. Toogee says - Posted: September 1, 2012

    Comparing Bijou School to the Magnate School is apples and oranges! The Magnate School is somewhat of a hand picked student body whereas Bijou’s student population is for the most part zonal. Karen Tinlin has done an excellent job as principal at Bijou (as witnessed in one small way by their achievements in the elementary school spelling bees in the last few years). I’m also glad to see LTUSD putting a great deal of energy into actual structural infrastructure.

  7. jessie says - Posted: September 1, 2012

    Agree with Toogee. The magnet school skims the distirct’s higher income white kids from well educated families. Its job is not nearly as difficult as Bijou’s. Parents who work hard to educate their children at home in partnership with the school give their children (and their school’s test scores) a huge advantage.
    Bringing summer school back to Bijou would be a help. So would more help with year-round daily reading at home by the less advantaged famliles.

  8. Lisa Huard says - Posted: September 1, 2012

    Bijou Community School is an amazing place to be and learn. The staff, administration, and parents ARE working very hard and have been over the years. It’s a place of honor and where kids are welcomed. Could all of our schools use more help? YES. If you have extra time, consider being a volunteer.