NEWMAN - Students in the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District showed slight growth rather than wholesale gains in math and English language arts (ELA) assessment tests administered last spring.

Overall, four out of every 10 students tested met or exceeded grade level standards in English language arts, while fewer than one of every four students met or exceeded the grade level standards in math.

The results are based on student performance on the Smarter Balanced assessment exam, which is administered to pupils in grades 3-8 and 11.

The district has seen growth during the four years the SBAC results have been available, said Director of Curriculum and Instruction Kim Bettencourt and Superintendent Randy Fillpot, and is continuing to put measures into place aimed at boosting achievement.

Looking at trends rather than year-to-year results is the most accurate indicator, Bettencourt told Mattos Newspapers, as is monitoring the performance of the same group of students as they move through the system, known as a cohort.

“If you look at English language arts, all of our cohorts have improved. Within the same group of kids taking the test year after year we have seen improvement,” she stated. “With math, there have been some ups and downs.”

Districtwide, 41.05 percent of students tested met or exceeded ELA standards while 24.63 percent met or exceeded math standards. Each reflects a gain of less than one percentage point from 2017 test results.

Countywide, 42.75 percent of students tested met or exceeded ELA standards and 28.79 met or exceeded math standards.

A leveling of growth is to be expected at some point, Bettencourt said, and is being reflected statewide.

“It is easy to have a growth spurt at the beginning. We had nowhere to go but up when we started, which was the same for everybody across the state,” she remarked. “At some point your growth is going to slow down and you have to work more strategically and target kids in a more focused way. We are going to have to work more strategically, and use our data better to take that next group (of students who are not testing at or above standards) to the next level.”

Among the highlights for the Newman-Crows Landing district, Bettencourt said, were solid gains shown by third-graders in both ELA and math - which bodes for a positive trend going forward.

Areas of concern, however, include math scores - particularly those at Yolo (20 percent met or exceeded standards) and Orestimba (18.5 percent met or exceeded standards).

Addressing math is an ongoing priority, Bettencourt and Fillpot said, as is the continued quest to improve the achievement of English language learners.

“It is something we struggle with, but it is not something that we are not addressing,” Bettencourt said of the need to close the achievement gap between English learners and English-proficient students.

Some 36 percent of students in the district are English learners, Fillpot said, with the highest percentages in the elementary grades.

That the two elementary schools with the highest percentage of English learners and economically disadvantaged student, Hunt and Von Renner, also have the lowest percentages of students meeting or exceeding grade level standards is no coincidence, Bettencourt told Mattos Newspapers.

Research shows that poverty is actually a better predictor of academic achievement than language, she added.

By school, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards on the 2018 SBAC exams were as follows. Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number.

Von Renner: ELA, 23 percent; math, 24 percent

Bonita: ELA, 68 percent; math 51 percent

Hunt: ELA, 31 percent; math 26 percent

Barrington: ELA, 47 percent; math 36 percent

Yolo: ELA, 42 percent; math, 20 percent

Orestimba: ELA, 54 percent; math, 18 percent

Fillpot, the superintendent, noted that the test results have been in the district’s hands since May. That has given educators the opportunity to delve into the data and, based on those findings, adjust its staff training and refocus on essential standards.

“We are putting a lot of time into professional development and monitoring the techniques in the classrooms,” he commented.

Bettencourt cautioned against turning to a single assessment test as an overall yardstick of school performance.

“Teachers work hard, and take it very seriously, but they also want to make sure that their students are having a lot of different experiences in school,” she reflected. “I couldn’t remember how I scored on a test....but I don’t think that should define or limit our students.”