In late September, the State Department of Education released to the public standardized testing scores for schools and districts across California. This was the third release of scores under the new assessment system, the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). Under the new school accountability system, known as the California School Dashboard, test scores are only part of the overall description and evaluation of schools and school districts. Even so, test scores tell an important story.

Visalia Unified’s test scores on CAASPP declined last school year. With regard to the percentage of our students who met or exceeded academic standard on English Language arts, our performance decreased from 48 percent to 47 percent in 2017. Our percentage of students who met or exceeded academic standard in Mathematics decreased from 32 percent to 31 percent in 2017. While we are not satisfied with these results, it is important to note that many individual students experienced growth on the CAASPP tests and some schools in our district displayed growth in either ELA or Mathematics or both. And growth is what we are after for individual kids, schools, and our district.

Test scores across the state held steady the 2016-2017 school year. For California, the percentage of students who met or exceeded academic standard remained at 49 percent in English Language Arts and at 37 percent in Mathematics. For Tulare County, the percentage of students who met or exceeded academic standard remained at 38 percent in English Language Arts and at 25 percent in Mathematics. So, for perspective, Visalia Unified continues to fall short of the state average, but leads the county average in performance.

There are two movements, one statewide and one local, that need to be understood to have a more complete sense for what is happening in schools. The first of these is that we are currently engaged in a significant period of change in education in California. With a new set of standards, a new assessment system, a new school finance system, and a new accountability system all enacted in our state within the past seven years, schools and school districts find themselves adapting to changes on an unprecedented scale. In Visalia Unified specifically, we are working to reorganize to adapt better to these changes, which are reflected in our district-wide goals. These five goals focus our efforts on rigorous instruction and support, collaborative culture, school climate, hiring and maintaining talented and productive staff, and aligning resources to support all goals. The goals provide us with an architecture that frames how we can achieve sustained growth in all areas.

In combination, these changes represent an enormous opportunity to improve our programs and systems. We find ourselves engaged in adapting to our new environment and it is clear we are moving in a good direction. Although our most recent test scores did decline, I am convinced we will be more able to serve our kids better as a result of our work in all areas.