Dear Parents/Guardians of MBUSD Students,
This week, the California Department of Education released the results of the first-ever California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson stated, “The CAASPP results will serve as a baseline from which to measure future progress.” This is a new online test for new learning standards. I believe these challenging standards are the right standards, measuring critical thinking and analysis, two skills that are essential for college and career success in the 21stcentury. Now that we have the first year of results from this new and more rigorous assessment, our primary goal is to pinpoint areas where we are doing well and areas where we can improve.
These results demonstrate the effectiveness of our focus on writing strategies with our teachers over the last four years. Over the last two years, we have been addressing strategies for teaching reading, particularly in grades K-8. Those results are strong and the continued use of research-based strategies for teaching reading will result in further improvement. Two more research-based strategies we are implementing include having our students read books at grade level and at their own level of reading, and clarifying that our homework emphasis in grades K-5 is to encourage independent reading more than anything else.
Last year, we began working on improving math instruction. Up to now, math teaching has focused mostly on procedural skills. These skills were the main focus in the old state exams, but are only a portion of the new exams. Research promotes a balanced approach to teaching math, consisting of conceptual understanding, application and procedural skills, and that is exactly what our teachers are now learning to utilize. Our math teachers are employing new strategies this year and participating in coaching sessions with UCLA researchers and practitioners. Improving teaching and learning in secondary math has been one of the Board’s top goals last year and this year, and will remain a high priority for several years to come.
Students in MBUSD performed quite well overall. Our achievement in English Language Arts (ELA) is strong. While achievement in math is not as high, particularly at the secondary level, it is still very competitive with the highest performing unified school districts in the state. In order from highest to lowest, our students performed best in writing, followed by reading analysis, then math. If you are interested in seeing some of the data from this year’s test scores, including comparisons to the state and to other high performing districts, please click here.
Across the district, I have seen our teachers working hard to implement new teaching practices, methodologies, curriculum maps, and so much more. I believe in the path we have taken and our current path that reflects the Board’s goal of continuous improvement. By improving in the use of these research-based strategies year after year, we will remain one of the top performing districts in the nation, and our students will improve year after year.
Moving forward, I will be asking for parent support on ensuring our 11th grade students take the exams. Approximately 30% of our juniors opted out of the exams last spring. I know this did not help our scores, and I am hopeful that all juniors will take the test this year. I will be communicating with our families of 11th grade students to do whatever we can to maximize participation.
Individual student score reports still have not arrived, and we will learn much more as we study those scores. We should be mailing those results to you in mid-October. After you receive the individual scores for your children, we will host meetings for those who have questions or would like additional information.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns, and thank you for your support of our students and our schools.
Michael D. Matthews, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Manhattan Beach Unified School District
325 South Peck Ave.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266