California students improve test scores; still not meeting math, reading standards

California students improved on their test scores compared to last year and each grade level saw an increase in students meeting or exceeding standards, according to Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
Torlakson announced the test scores at San Leandro High School on Wednesday.

Although students improved their test scores compared to 2015, they are still not meeting the more challenging standards for math and reading. The 2016 scores, released Wednesday, revealed 49 percent of students met or exceeded standards in reading and 37 percent met or exceeded standards in math in all grades tested. In 2015, 44 percent of students met or exceeded standards in reading and 33% met or exceeded math standards.

Students are tested annually grades 3 through 8 and once in grade 11.

Torlakson said the results are a sign of progress considering students now use a new computer testing system that launched in 2015. He said more work needs to be done to improve scores next year.

“We had a five percent gain in English/Language Arts and a four percent gain in Mathematics so these are really positive numbers,” Torlakson said.

He noted that scores are just one indicator of a student’s success.

He also spoke with KTVU about a number of challenges facing California schools, one of which is a teacher shortage.

“We are recruiting,” he said. “We’re saying, ‘Come on, it’s a great profession.’ You get such satisfaction helping students.”

The Department of Education is working on ways to keep teachers living in the cities they teach in, despite increasingly expensive housing costs.

“Some proposals are to provide housing for teachers, but think of how many teachers you would have to provide housing for,” he said. “There are a number of ways we’re trying to address that, but it’s a serious problem.”

As far as overcrowding in schools, Torlakson hopes voters will approve Prop 51 in November.

“It is about a $9 billion measure to invest in new schools and renovating and fixing up old schools,” he said. “It doesn’t cost taxpayers any money, but the state will put out more money to help our schools.”

Right now, Torlakson said California schools are on the right track. The new testing system is tougher, but he believes it will make students better.

“It means good things for California’s economy, a stronger economy, more graduates from high school, more students going on to college and more students getting fulfilling careers,” he added.

The test scores also revealed an achievement gap between White students and African American and Latino students. The Department of Education said it will be looking at strategies from various school districts, like San Leandro, where minority students saw significant gains in testing scores.

A spokesperson for the San Leandro School District credits the success to a number of factors that include a focus around professional development, the integration of technology in school, and a personalized learning experience for students.