NEWMAN - Improvement on standardized assessment tests has proven elusive in the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District.

Results released recently by the state Department of Education show that four of 10 students tested locally met or exceeded English language arts standards and fewer than one in four met or exceeded mathematics standards.

Forty percent of students met or exceeded ELA standards, reflecting a one-point decline from 2018 Smarter Balanced assessments, which are administered to students in grades 3-8 and 11. In math, just under 25 percent of students met or exceeded standards. That was virtually unchanged from a year earlier, inching upward by a fraction of a percentage point.

“I think we’re pretty much like the rest of Stanislaus County,” commented Kim Bettencourt, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction. “We are pretty much flat-lining. Some sites did well, but as a district we are maintaining and making small improvements, pretty much like the rest of the county.”

The topic was at the forefront during a recent meeting of county superintendents, said Randy Fillpot, who is Newman-Crows Landing superintendent.

“We’re all trying to figure out why we have all flattened out. It kind of looks that way through the entire Central Valley,” he told Mattos Newspapers.

In Stanislaus County as a whole, 42.5 percent of students met or exceeded ELA standards and just under 30 percent achieved that benchmark in math.

Newman-Crows Landing test results in both subject areas reflected roughly a five-point growth in proficiency from the first year testing in 2015 to 2016, but over the course of the last four years have shown virtually no change in the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards.

Bettencourt expressed confidence that gains will be seen, citing the increased professional development, hard work by classroom teachers and a commitment by the district to provide additional counseling and support services.

“We have to dig deeper to get to those kids who are a little harder to move. The kids who were easy to move (into met/exceeded standards designation) have already moved,” she commented. “Now we have to start moving those kids who need more support. It may take another year or two to see the trend change, but they are working on it diligently.”

Countless factors and variables go into the achievement of each student on the testing, she and Fillpot added.

While Hunt and Von Renner elementary schools did not fare as well as others on the testing, Bettencourt said by way of example, they serve student populations with high numbers of English learner and economically disadvantaged students.

“I don’t think you can (overlook) those characteristics,” she stated.

The district is continuing to bolster support for English learners, Bettencourt added, hoping to boost achievement among that demographic before those students reach the middle school and high school levels.

“We have to start giving targeted support to specific groups of students,” she said. “Every site last year had to develop a plan for supporting English learners, and the EL leadership team continues to meet to make sure that we are doing what we said we would do.”

Performance of English learners on the spring 2019 exams showed just under 12 percent met or exceeded ELA standards districtwide - a dip of nearly five points from 2018.

Following is a school-by-school breakdown of the percentage of students who met or exceeded standards in spring 2019 testing. The percentage point change from 2018 appears in parentheses. Figures are rounded to the nearest whole number.

Hurd Barrington Elementary: ELA 42 percent (down four); Math 33 percent (down three)

Bonita Elementary: ELA 67 percent (down one); Math 53 percent (up two)

Hunt Elementary: ELA 28 percent (down three); Math 29 percent (up three)

Von Renner Elementary: ELA 26 percent (up three) ; Math 20 percent (down three)

Yolo Middle School: ELA 41 percent (down one); Math 21 percent (no change)

Orestimba High: ELA 50 percent (down four); Math 22 percent (up four)

Bettencourt and Fillpot stressed that the performance of students and teachers alike should not be defined by a single test number.

“Test scores do not define a kid, and we don’t want them to,” Fillpot stated. “It is just one piece. We are developing great young adults in our district. Even the ones who haven’t done well on tests have gone on to be successful in college and careers.”