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Schools:English learners’ scores below state averages

Renee Shadforth, Sierra Sun

Students in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District out-performed students across the state in most subject areas in spring 2003 standardized testing.

However, the district’s English learners performed below state averages in nearly every subject area and grade level.

“We’re below the state practically across the board; we’re really working hard on this,” said TTUSD director of curriculum Ruta Krusa, who added that she has to evaluate more test data before drawing too many conclusions about the district’s standardized testing performance.

However, in preliminary testing data, English learners in Truckee and on the Lake Tahoe side of the district scored lower on their standardized tests than most English learners statewide, Krusa said.

Although most educators hesitate to put too much weight on standardized exams to measure student success, Krusa said the tests can be a decent measuring stick if TTUSD is compared to similar districts in California.

“All districts in California are at a disadvantage because of our numbers of English learners,” Krusa said.

Most of California’s and TTUSD’s English learners are from Mexico.

Looking for solutions

At the Nov. 19 school board meeting, Krusa presented the trustees and district staff with a Student Academic Assessment Report with scores from five standardized tests taken by TTUSD students last school year and Academic Performance Index information.

The members of the board asked Krusa to return with recommendations for the board based on the standardized test scores.

“I don’t want to micro-manage,” said school board trustee Karen Van Epps. “I think it’s important (for the board) to establish priority to support the allocation of funds – that’s how the board can help.”

The school district has implemented several programs to improve English learner performance in the classroom. For example, the district has created a Special Friends program, dual immersion classes and other English-intensive courses to aid Spanish-speaking students.

Over the past year, Krusa has been working with California Tomorrow to create a plan of action to improve English language development in the district.

“This is beyond just getting teachers certified to teach English learners,” Krusa said. “This is specifically going to teachers and working on strategies to make sure students learn English well in school.”

In addition to changing the status quo in the classroom, Krusa and other district staff have been working with family resource centers within the district to be sure that parents are a part of their children’s education and their children go to school.

“It’s a multi-pronged approach,” she said. “We have to work with the family and with the classroom.”

All standardized testing results are available on the California Department of Education’s Web site at http://www.cde.ca.gov, by clicking the “STAR” link under the “Favorites” heading.

For those without Internet access, call 582-2504 for a copy of the report.


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