Kern County students made marginal improvements on standardized test scores over last year, but the vast majority are failing to meet standards, according to data released Wednesday.

Roughly 40 percent of Kern County students met or exceeded state standards in English and language arts, a two percentage point increase over 2016 and a seven percentage point spike over 2015, when new Smarter Balanced Assessment tests were introduced to align with Common Core curriculum.

Growth was slower in math, with 27 percent of county students meeting or exceeding standards this year, a two percentage point increase over 2016, and four percentage point increase over 2015.

Students, however, are making progress on the test. Educational leaders are seeing a shift in the number of students who are not meeting standards and are beginning to nearly meet standards.

“There is still a lot of work to be done, but we are moving in the right direction,” said Lisa Gilbert, assistant superintendent of instructional services at the Kern County Superintendent of Schools office.

KCSOS, however, is concerned about a widening achievement gap. Roughly 33 percent of socio-economically disadvantaged students met or exceeded standards in English-language arts, compared to 59 percent of students who are not economically disadvantaged.

Meanwhile, white students continue to outpace Hispanic and black students. Just 36 percent of Hispanic students, and 26 percent of black students met or exceeded state standards, compared to 49 percent of white students and 64 percent of Asian students.

“Narrowing this achievement gap remains our priority,” Gilbert said.

Bakersfield City School District has been bucking the county average, however, with 31 percent of its students meeting or exceeding English-language arts standards in 2016 — a six percentage point spike over 2015. This year, 33.6 percent of BCSD's students met or exceeded state standards, a 2.6 percentage point increase over 2016. 

In math, BCSD students were consistent with county averages, seeing a 2.5 percentage point increase in the number of students who met state standards.

And some schools saw tremendous gains. Bessie E. Owens Primary saw an almost 12 percentage point increase in math scores, and a 4.5 percentage point spike in English. 

Others, however, saw huge losses. Casa Loma Elementary saw a 12 percentage point decrease in the number of students meeting state math standards and a .75 percentage point decrease in English.

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

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