Tahoe-Truckee schools are doing great
How good are the Tahoe-Truckee public schools at training our children?Over the years I have heard complaints from parents about the experiences of their children in the local schools, or have read about several schools not meeting the No Child Left Behind requirements.Some parents have even moved out of the Tahoe and Truckee area because they perceived that schools in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District are not the best places for their children to attend. Well, dont pack those bags yet. Look behind the statistics and you may realize that our schools are actually right up there with the best schools in the state in preparing students.I obtained statistics from the California Department of Education (CDE) website showing how Tahoe-Truckee students are scoring on the annual English Language Arts STAR tests in comparison with other students throughout the state. I havent seen the math numbers yet, but plan on passing them on in a future column. To better understand the meaning of the statistics from CDE there are two important points to understand.First, even though our students come from three different counties, Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District is considered a Placer County school district.For 2005, the most recent year available, the highest CST test scores in the state for English Language Arts came from these five counties: 1) Marin County 2) PLACER COUNTY 3) El Dorado County 4) Nevada County, and 5) Santa Clara County. As you can see Placer County was the second highest scoring county in the State of California.Second, the federal No Child Left Behind Act left it up to the states to determine what scores students would have to receive on standardized tests in order to be Proficient in a subject. California decided to set the bar high. So high in fact that in 2006 only 48 percent of all students in the state were proficient and above in English Language Arts, with 73 percent of the student population meeting the Basic and Above threshold. (It helps me to think of Proficient and Above as As and Bs, and Basic as a C).TTUSD on the other hand had 59 percent of the entire student population Proficient and Above and 83 percent who met the Basic and Above requirements. Bottom line our TTUSD students are doing 10 percent better than the state in both categories.Even though Placer County had the second highest scores in the state for English Language Arts, our students in many categories are beating Placer County, and we are trouncing the State of California as a whole. Not only are TTUSD students doing well in relation to the state and county, but local student scores are also improving faster than the state or county.For comparison purposes students are divided into native English speakers, or as the state labels them English only, and English learners. Of those who are English-only speakers, 55 percent of students state-wide and 66 percent of students in Placer County scored Proficient and Above in English Language Arts. TTUSD scored much higher with 72 percent of our English-only speakers meeting the Proficient and Above level (Up 11 percent since 2004). Ninety-two percent of the English-only speakers at TTUSD scored at the Basic or Above level, compared to just 73 percent for the State of California and 87percent for Placer County. In both the Proficient and Above and the Basic and Above categories, our English-only speakers scored higher than the comparable group in Placer County, which remember is the second highest scoring county in the state. Not Bad!For our English Learners, 21 percent state-wide and 23 percent in Placer County scored Proficient and Above in English Language Arts. This is compared to 19 percent within TTUSD. At the Basic and Above level, the scores were 50 percent state-wide, 53 percent in Placer county and 50 percent in TTUSD. Although 19percent at Proficient and Above and 50 percent at Basic and Above is low, especially compared to our English-only students, those numbers represent a 46 percent and 39 percent improvement respectively since 2004.So what does all these numbers and percentages mean? When it comes to teaching English language skills, Placer County schools are near the top of the heap in the state, and our schools in the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District are some of the best in Placer County. TTUSD teachers should be patted on the back for doing an especially good job at teaching our English Only students to excel and for the large improvement in scores for our English Learners. A next important step is for our schools and community to figure out how to continue to improve the scores for our English Learners.Tim Hausermans book, Monsters in the Woods: Backpacking with Childrenwas just published by University of Nevada Press.