So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

California test scores: LA Unified, state schools gain in English, math*

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California education officials released standardized test scores Friday that showed overall statewide gains in English, math.

Schools statewide made overall gains on the annual standardized test results released Friday, doing more with less, as California has continued to slash education funding, forcing program cuts and thousands of teacher layoffs.

You can find out how your school district did on KPCC's interactive graphic map.

At the Los Angeles Unified School District, the state's largest district and the second-largest in the nation, student performance in English-Language Arts improved by 4 percentage points from last year, with 48 percent proficient or better. In math, that number went up 2 percentage points from last year to 45 percent.

Statewide, that trend was repeated with slightly smaller gains: Students taking the English-Language Arts test section improved 3 percentage points to 57 percent proficient or better. In math, that number grew by 1 percentage point to 51 percent.

"In less than a decade we've gone from having only about one student in three score as proficient or better to now having one student out of two,” said Paul Hefner, a spokesman for the California Department of Education. “That's nearly 900,000 more students reaching proficiency now than when we started this system back in 2003. Obviously, there's still work to do there, ... but a great deal of progress has been made.”

Scores ran the gamut in L.A County. (You can see the results on maps divided by district here.) La Canada Unified School District came in at the top with nearly 92 percent proficient or better in English-Language Arts and 87 percent in math. The district tied with San Marino Unified in math.

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California test scores: State to release results at 10 a.m.

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California education officials plan to release the annual standardized test scores at 10 a.m.

The California Department of Education plans to release its annual standardized test scores for school districts this morning.
 
The tests in English and math measure whether school districts meet state education standards. Students between the second and 11th grades take the exam.
 
California Department of Education spokesman Paul Hefner said the state aims for students to be at least proficient.
 
"They are our best benchmark that everyone or almost everyone in the school system up and down California participates in," Hefner said. "They’re our way to gauge what students know and can do over time."

The state's releasing this year's results a couple of weeks later than usual because of a security breach during testing. Students at a dozen schools, including some in LA County, posted questions online. The state Department of Education is investigating those results to make sure they’re valid.

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Measure to improve student success at California Community Colleges clears hurdle

Jack Scott, California Community Colleges

Tami Abdollah / KPCC

A measure to streamline the path to graduation, certification and transfers moves to the governor's desk for signature or veto. California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott has championed SB 1456.

California legislators voted overwhelmingly in favor of a measure Thursday that aims to streamline the path to student graduation, certification and transfers in the California Community Colleges.

The 36 to 1 concurrence vote in the state Senate means that SB 1456 now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown who has 30 days to sign or veto the measure. The bill, authored by Democratic state Sen. Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach, is one result of a year-long study by the 20-member Student Success Task Force. The group put together a 70-page plan that included 22 recommendations of reform. (The changes included in SB 1456 are the ones that require legislative changes, officials said.)

"We were very concerned about the fact that a lot of the students who got into community colleges, either they didn't get a certificate or degree, or didn't transfer," said system Chancellor Jack Scott. "And so we began to look at ways to ensure greater student success...This bill is a start of that."

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LA County's Challenger youth probation camp moves from punishment to hope

Challenger School

Michael Juliano/KPCC

Keith Partner, 18, has been at L.A. County's Challenger youth probation camp four times since he was 15. “I seen a lot of changes there,” Partner said. “It went from good to bad, to bad to good…For me, I seen that it changed by more supports…little stuff to keep us motivated.”

What was once considered one of the country’s worst probation camp schools, beset by a federal lawsuit, negative inspection reports and an ongoing parade of monitors, is slowly emerging as a possible model for teaching incarcerated youths.

It's a place that's trying to move away from a culture of punishment and coercion to one of hope and cooperation. Students seem to be responding.

Tucked behind a state prison in the dusty high desert of Lancaster, the Challenger Memorial Youth Center is Los Angeles County’s largest probation facility. Each of its six camps is named after an astronaut who died in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster; the school, Christa McAuliffe High, takes its name from the teacher who was on board.

But Challenger has also become synonymous for the major class-action federal lawsuit filed against officials of the L.A. County’s Office of Education and the county’s Probation Department in 2010 by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, the ACLU, Public Counsel and the Disability Rights Legal Center.

The suit alleged that the facility was systematically denying young people their fundamental right to an education by graduating a student who could not read his own diploma, locking students in solitary confinement (sometimes for months) and haphazardly kicking students out of class.

A 2011 settlement agreement requires monitoring and quarterly reports by a team of experts over the next four years who check on 13 areas of reform, including literacy, instruction and special education. A monitor is now at Challenger several times a month, sometimes on a weekly basis.

“There’s a lot of pressure on everybody,” said school Principal Marsha Watkins. “We live in a fishbowl pretty much. But the real bottom line is it comes down to kids. ... We weren’t doing what we needed to do for kids, and now we are. And we’re getting better and better … at it every day."

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