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Charter schools stress mission over test scores

STAR test results mixed at SCVi, Einstein

Posted: August 14, 2013 6:24 p.m.
Updated: August 14, 2013 6:24 p.m.

SANTA CLARITA - Two of the largest charter schools in the Santa Clarita Valley had mixed results in some subject areas of state standardized tests, but officials at the schools say such scores are only a portion of their means for measuring student performance.

Results of the Standardized Testing and Reporting assessment test — the so-called STAR test — were released statewide last week. Students took the tests earlier this year.

Scores on the tests are used to rank proficiency in specific subjects, which in turn are used to determine a school’s Academic Performance Index. Schools that fail to reach the API goals could face state intervention.

More than 80 percent of tested students at the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences, which is chartered through the William S. Hart Union High School District for students in grades seven to 12, tested advanced or proficient in English-language arts and some areas of science.

But the school did see scores dip in mathematics, where 46 percent of students tested as proficient or advanced, and history, where 76 percent of students did so, both decreases from last year.

The Einstein Academy also saw a larger testing pool this year than last, with almost 100 more students — 343 total — taking the STAR assessments.

School Principal Edward Gika said Einstein Academy officials continue to examine how courses are taught.

“We always feel there’s room for improvement,” Gika said. “We’re always assessing, crunching the data to see how we can do even better.”

Gika said the school looks at how students are progressing, not just at the number who score highly.

“We’re not as interested in making our scores look good as we are in making sure our students understand the concepts and progress successfully,” Gika said.

Officials at Santa Clarita Valley International Charter School, a K-12 school chartered through the Hart district, also said standardized test scores are only part of the puzzle when it comes to measuring student progression.

“We want (students) to feel like the tests are a byproduct of what they’re learning, not the whole picture,” said Amber Raskin, the executive director of business development and operations at SCVi.

Results were somewhat mixed at the school, with students showing gains in English-language arts, math and some science assessments but with scores falling in history.

Almost 60 percent of more than 600 students tested advanced or proficient in English-language arts, while 36 percent of 150 students scored as such in history.

While the school puts some stock into scores on standardized tests such as STAR, of more importance to officials is the individual performance of students during classroom projects, said Dawn Evenson, executive director of education for SCVi.

“We just measure their learning in a different way,” Evenson said.

Evenson and Raskin also said the shift away from traditional assessment tests such as STAR to the more computer-based ones favored under Common Core State Standards could benefit SCVi.

“That type of assessment does celebrate the learner’s strengths and it helps to really identify what they need, which is really what needs to happen,” Evenson said.

The state may shift from the STAR tests to assessments that are partly computer-based and align with federal common core standards, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said last week.

Such assessments place additional emphasis on college and career readiness as well as critical thinking, Torlakson said.

Einstein and SCVi are the two largest traditional junior/senior high schools chartered by the Hart district. Two other charter schools operate on independent studies models.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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