Despite test score decline, San Dieguito students outperform county, state

CAASPP math scores over the years.
(Karen Billing)

The San Dieguito Union High School District continues to be among the top-performing districts in the county, according to the results of the 2022 California Assessment of Student Performance Progress (CAASPP) recently released by the state.

In English language arts (ELA), 78% of San Dieguito students met or exceeded standards, which is significantly higher than the state’s 47% and San Diego County’s 53% averages. In math, 67% of SDUHSD students met or exceeded standards, again higher than both the state (33%) and San Diego County (39%) averages.

“The reason we give assessments is to improve how we support our students, identify how they’re performing and progressing, and make sure that we are engaged in a continuous cycle to help our students in the learning process, ” said Julie Goldberg, the district’s director of assessment during a report at the Nov. 17 SDUHSD board meeting.

Goldberg said these assessment results will help the district identify areas of need, make instructional adjustments, direct resources and provide support and services designed to improve the overall student experience. Those supports can include things like academic intervention courses, targeted tutoring, an enhanced summer school program, and bilingual instructional aids.

Students in the county, state and nationwide saw a post-pandemic decline in ELA and math scores and San Dieguito was not immune to that trend, particularly in math.

When compared to 2019 CAASPP results in ELA, San Dieguito had a decrease of 1.9% in students meeting or exceeding standards in ELA—the decrease is less than the county and state decrease of four percentage points. San Dieguito’s math scores also saw a decrease of 5.3% from 2019 results while the county averaged a 5.9% drop and the state saw a 6.4% decrease.

As Goldberg said, there are limits in comparing test results between 2019 and 2022, and the 2022 results should be used as a baseline for student progress going forward as opposed to continuing to look back.

In his comments, Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Bryan Marcus stressed that the CAASPP assessments are “isolated measurements”, just one form of student assessment. Both he and Goldberg said that the really impactful assessments on student learning are the formative assessments that happen daily in the classrooms.

In another form of assessment, last year San Dieguito saw record number of participation and performance on AP tests, with an 84% passing rate.

At the meeting, Muir questioned why there was not a chart shown that broke down the individual performances of each school. As Muir brought it up, Allman put up a slide comparing all of the district schools.

“This is what parents see and how they perceive the district and we haven’t addressed that,” Muir said.

Muir said she has received multiple phone calls from parents concerned about the performance of individual schools. During public comment, parent Seema Burke said the district appeared to be attempting to “gloss over” the learning losses, referencing low scores at La Costa Canyon. At La Costa Canyon, students were 57% proficient or advanced in ELA and 38% in math.

The strongest-performing high school in the district was Canyon Crest Academy with 89% of students scoring proficient or advanced in ELA and 79% in math. Pacific Trails Middle School was the top-performing middle school with 86% meeting or exceeding standards in ELA and 81% in math.

LCC had the lowest participation rate on the tests, with only 60% participation in the math test compared to CCA’s 96% participation.

Although the site comparison was put up on the big screen at the meeting, Marcus said he would not comment on it as he was not asked to provide a discussion on individual school sites, only a comparison to county and state scores.

“This is our district and we are owning every school in this district, every student in this district and it takes a communal effort around this,” Marcus said. “I will not be going into details about individual schools, it’s not appropriate for tonight’s meeting.”

Muir kept pushing for a response or further comments as she said parents are concerned about post-pandemic learning loss: “We have to be responsive to our parents because they want all kids to be successful.”

“We are responsive to our parents, President Muir,” Interim Superintendent Tina Douglas said. “And if there are parents that feel we’re not being responsive, please let us know.”

As Douglas said, the scores are public on the California Department of Education’s website. Parents with concerns about their students’ test scores are encouraged to reach out to their school site.

Federal law mandates that 95% of students in the grade levels tested must participate. If they don’t hit that 95% target, Goldberg there is a harsh penalty applied to the district’s academic indicator on the California School Dashboard that can artificially make student academic performance look low. Historically, San Dieguito schools have met that target, however, in 2022, SDUHSD saw an increase in the number of families who chose to opt their students out of participating in statewide assessments.

If not all students participate, the scores don’t present a complete picture. As the results provide insights into student performance and progress over time, the district hopes to better communicate with families about the importance of participating in the tests.