Credit: Ben Mullins/Unsplash

The Santa Barbara Unified School District released a mid-year progress report, going over scores of the STAR reading and math tests from all students in grades 3-6, and all students in grades 7-8 at Santa Barbara and La Cumbre Junior High schools. The report also delves into absenteeism among students and district employees, as well as the progress of incoming high school students. 

This is not a standard report card for end-of-year scores, said district Chief Operations Officer Steve Venz. Instead, the district wanted to take a look at how students have been performing so far this year as compared to last year in reading and math, examining what areas students might need more help in and how the district can provide that. “This is a snapshot of where our students are at this particular time,” Venz said. “We as a district just wanted to find out which students need help, and what they need help with.”

Overall, the majority of elementary and secondary students have performed at or exceeded standards in reading, with both groups having at least 40 percent of their student populations exceeding standards as of the most recent assessment. The most recent assessment was given for secondary students in February 2022 and for elementary students in March 2022. When compared to scores from May 2021, secondary students’ comprehension went down slightly, with 44 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards in 2021, compared to 40 percent of students in 2022. For elementary students, comprehension rose, from 44 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards in 2021 to 46 percent of students in 2022. 

Although the majority of students in elementary and secondary schools are not meeting the standard for math proficiency, there continues to be an incline in comprehension among elementary students. In 2021, 23 percent of students met or exceeded the standard for math proficiency, which rose to 28 percent of students in 2022. Venz said this was the most “spectacular” observation made in the progress report and is indicative of district teachers’ tireless efforts. “This to me shows that teachers were able to not only keep things alive but also keep students engaged,” he said. 

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The progress of high school students was also reported, examining overall progress for incoming high school freshmen, the percentage of students with comprehensive academic plans. For freshmen, Venz said less than 10 percent of 9th graders at each high school will be behind for the next school year, as the majority have been able to reach the number of necessary credits. 

In regard to chronic absenteeism, which is categorized as missing more than 10 percent of school days, as of April 1 of this year, 24 percent of the student population has been chronically absent in the 2021-22 school year. This was compared to the 2020-21 school year, which saw just more than 4 percent of students chronically absent. The 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years saw about the same levels of chronic absenteeism, about 11 percent each year. For employees, in January 2022, there were 963 total teachers absent, and the total absent days totaled 4,789 days.

Starting next school year, all three of the local high schools will be on block scheduling. Since San Marcos currently uses block scheduling, this decision will only impact Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos High School, which use the traditional seven-period model for classes. Other changes to be made to improve district learning include developing a new English-language curriculum for grades 7-12 and guaranteeing all high school students have multi-year academic plans. 

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