Winters JUSD student assessment results reflect low scores

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Winters Joint Unified School District office building (Crystal Apilado/Winters Express)

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The Winters Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees discussed the findings of two standardized assessments that reflect some of the challenges in the learning process of some of Winters’ students. 

Acting Superintendent Phoebe Girimonte gave a brief introduction of the Evaluate program as “data from the Evaluate math and English Language, Arts (ELA) assessments inform teachers about how their students are progressing towards mastery of state standards,” and also, “helps us to inform planning such as School Plans for Student Achievement.” Evaluate is utilized at Winters High School.

WHS Principal John Barsotti presented the Trustees with the Evaluate data findings. Barsotti said the assessments are done on a two-month basis where students are given one-half of the standards the first month and the second half the next. Barsotti further explained that Evaluate uses a four proficiency level model from below basic to basic to proficient to advanced in its assessments, a model similar to CAASPP’s (California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress) model.  

The results of the assessments, which show that 13 percent of ninth through 12th-grade students are in the advanced and proficient levels in mathematics, compared to 9 percent in the same categories last year. Of English Learners, one percent of students were in the advanced and proficient levels compared to zero percent last year. He then broke down the results by course, noting that students in the advanced and proficient levels saw trends of increasing proficiency within cohorts rising to different courses by year. 

For ELA results, Barsotti told the board that 8 percent of students are at proficient or advanced levels,  compared to 10 percent last year, with English Learner students at one percent, compared to zero percent last year. 

Board President Carrie Green noted her dissatisfaction with the numbers and asked Barsotti what the next steps are.

Barsotti acknowledged her sentiment, saying, “I know the results don’t look good. I’m not happy with them, teachers are not happy with them, our students are not happy with them, and we should not be happy with them. But, it’s not for a lack of effort and work,” and that, “students need the extra support, teachers need extra resources and time.”

Girimonte also noted efforts and programs used in schools to help improve students’ familiarity and mastery of these subjects, as well as clarifying that the nature of these assessments is to assess students in relation to material they will learn throughout the year, so this first examination is often lower compared to final results.  

Girimonte presented the results of the CAASPP. The assessment is given to students in third through eighth grade, as well as to 11th-grade students. This April was the first time the assessment has been implemented at all grade levels since the spring of 2019 due to the pandemic.

Girimonte expounded on why these assessments are given, including as a benchmark for comparing Winters’ students to statewide standards of education as well as identifying areas that require more focus and resources for educational improvement. The statewide standard released by the California Department of Education last month found that 47 percent of students are meeting or exceeding standards in ELA, down 4 percent from pre-pandemic levels. 

Using state data as well as data from the comparable district of Woodland, Girimonte noted that Winters’ standards declined demonstrably from pre-pandemic levels and are below statewide standards. 

Girimonte discussed some potential causes for these deficiencies, including the large volume of tests taken back to back in spring that could create testing fatigue with students, as well as noting successes seen in third through fourth grades and difficulties in 11th grade.

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