First published in the Nov. 3 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
While the current landscape of education seems to be grim with students’ academic performance on the decline in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the most recent scores from state standardized testing indicate that La Cañada Unified School District continues to thrive.
The state released the results from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASSP, on Oct. 24 and La Cañada students exceeded expectations. Though no official ranking was released by the state, LCUSD compared itself to 14 other notable districts — such as San Marino, South Pasadena, Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach and Palo Alto — and was among the top three in English, mathematics and science.
Karen Hurley, executive director of programs and services, said in a statement, “LCUSD should be proud of these excellent scores. Students experience the greatest growth and development when learning in LCUSD’s supportive, rigorous and caring environment. While there is still work to do, it is great to see signs of academic success despite two very challenging school years for students, staff and families.”
In English, LCUSD students in grades 3, 4, 6 and 11 finished first among the 15 schools, 7th- and 8th-graders were second and 5th-graders were third. As a whole, 87.9% of students met or exceeded state standards, an impressive feat after the spread of COVID-19 shut down schools for nearly an entire year in 2020.
LCF students also excelled in math, with 6th- and 8th-graders ranked No. 1 among comparable schools, students in grades 4, 7 and 11 finishing second, 3rd and 5th graders in third. Of the all the students tested, 83.27% met or exceeded the state standards.
LCUSD students in 5th, 8th and 12th grades also showed strong results in the California Science Test, placing in the top three among high-achieving comparable unified school districts.
Wendy Sinnette, LCUSD superintendent, said in a statement: “The past few years have presented unprecedented challenges to students, teachers, staff, families and the daily operations of our schools. These CAASPP scores are a particularly meaningful metric for the district in that they provide a standardized, statewide measure of our students’ academic progress as we emerge from the disruptions of the pandemic.
“Additionally, we could not have realized these results without the resilience and commitment of our parents and caregivers. There is still much work to be done to support the academic and social-emotional needs of our students, and we will continue with our multi-tiered systems of learning and wellness supports, but we celebrate these CAASPP scores. Our students, teachers, and staff are all to be commended for their outstanding achievements,” she added.
At La Cañada Elementary School, 84.47% of students met or exceeded state standards in English language arts while 84.77% met or exceeded standards in mathematics. Students in 3rd grade were at the head of the class in math with 88.24% of students meeting or exceeding the state targets while 88% of 6th grade students did the same in English language arts.
At Palm Crest Elementary School, 90.58% of students met or exceeded standards in English language arts with 92.77% of 4th grade and 95.37% of 6th grade students meeting or exceeding state standards. In mathematics, 4th grade students excelled with 96.39% of students meeting or exceeding state standards. Overall math scores for PCR showed that 90.03% of students met or exceeded state standards.
At Paradise Canyon, 4th grade students excelled in both English language arts and mathematics with 95.24% and 86.9% meeting or exceeding standards. Overall, 85.85% of PCY students met or exceed standards in ELA while 80.98% met or exceeded standards in mathematics.
At La Cañada High School 7/8 students showed outstanding scores. In ELA and mathematics, 88.43% and 85.66% of 7th grade students and 86.99% and 82.32% of 8th grade students met or exceeded state standards. In grade 11, juniors had top scores in English compared to similar high achieving schools, with 92.3% of students meeting or exceeding standards. Overall math scores for juniors showed that 75% of students met or exceeded state standards.
Sinnette noted that while the test results are an important measure of the district’s progress, the California Dashboard, scheduled to be released later this year, increases accountability to ensure student success given a wider range of performance indicators.
“LCUSD prioritizes academic excellence while ensuring that students experience a sense of belonging in a responsive climate of care at school. By design, this dual commitment strives to ensure their life-long wellness and success,” Sinnette added.
The remarkable results presented by Sinnette come on the heels of a report released from the National Center for Education Statistics that confirms the pandemic’s negative impacts on students, and the assessment showed the largest national average score decline in math for 4th and 8th grade students. There was also a drop in national average score in reading.
“The results show the profound toll on student learning during the pandemic, as the size and scope of the declines are the largest ever in mathematics,” said NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr. “The results also underscore the importance of instruction and the role of schools in both students’ academic growth and their overall wellbeing. It’s clear we all need to come together — policymakers and community leaders at every level — as partners in helping our educators, children and families succeed.”