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California Standards Tests scores up in 2012

For the ninth consecutive year, English and mathematics scores for the California Standards Tests (CSTs), a part of the California STAR Testing Program, have risen, the state's Department of Education announced.

This past spring, roughly 4.7 million students across California participated in the STAR Testing Program, which, in addition to the CSTs, includes the California Modified Assessment, the California Alternate Performance Assessment and the Standards-based Tests in Spanish.

Based on the results of the CSTs, 57 percent of second- through eleventh-graders scored at the proficient level and above in English. In mathematics, 51 percent of second- through ninth-graders scored at proficient and above. These results have left Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction, impressed, as many schools are struggling to keep the quality of instruction high while dealing with budget cuts.

"…Our students continue to make gains even as our schools - and the teachers, administrators and school employees working in them - are getting by with so much less," Torlakson said.

Remarkable gains being made

In 2003, assessments within the STAR Testing Program were fully aligned with the California content standards. Since then, Torlakson said his state has gone from having one in three students score proficient to more than one in two doing the same.

"That's nearly 900,000 more students reaching proficiency now than in 2003 - a remarkable achievement that represents real, sustained improvements in learning," Torlakson said.

To see how far students have come over the past decade, one need only look at the CSTs' results from 2003 through 2012. In 2003, only 35 percent of students scored at proficient or above, compared to 2012's 57 percent. A total of 35 percent of students also scored at proficient and above in mathematics in 2003, compared to this year's 51 percent.

Reasons for the higher scores

While every school has its own approach to improving students' test scores, nine of San Francisco's lowest-performing institutions believe funding can go a long way, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. These schools received about $5 million in federal money to improve test scores and it appears to have worked. In English, 37 percent of students scored at proficient, while 29 percent did the same in mathematics. In both cases, the percentages were higher than they were in the previous year.

Meanwhile, at John Muir Elementary School in San Jose, there was a 9 percent increase in students' English scores. Principal Tristan Komlos told the Santa Monica Mirror this progress was due to a focus on literacy, as well as professional development for teachers and increased collaboration.