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CA students' test scores decline statewide, while Trinity County holds steady

<p>Oregon's standardized testing scores in 2017 continued to fall below expectations. Less than 50 percent of students who took the tests passed the math portion, with 53 percent passing the reading exam.</p>
Rob Manning
California students' test scores are lower statewide than they were pre-pandemic.

Student test scores released by the California Department of Education this week show statewide declines in English and Math since pre-pandemic days. But one county in far Northern California is still scoring as well as it did before COVID.

Statewide, just 33% of students in grades 3-11 met or exceeded the testing standard for Math, and 47% did for English and Language Arts, according to new data from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress. Pre-pandemic, in the 2018-2019 school year, those numbers were 39% and 51%, respectively.

These testing shortfalls are especially widespread in far Northern California. Trinity County Superintendent Sarah Supahan said this might be due to the region’s rural nature and lack of services.

"Our internet service is very limited. Some of our schools don't even have cell service or have very slow cell service. Our kids aren't as used to doing things on the internet because of that, and the tests are now completely online," she said.

Still, Trinity County did well compared to its neighbors. Nearly every other county in far Northern California was below the statewide testing averages.

In Del Norte, only 16% of students met or exceeded the testing standard for Math, while 29% did for English. In Tehama County, those numbers were 22% and 34%, respectively.

But in Trinity County, 45% of students met or exceeded the testing standard for Math, and 53% did for English. These numbers might seem low, but they’re higher than any other county in far Northern California, as well as the new state averages.

Supahan attributed these scores to one thing in particular.

"We have been open through COVID," she said. "Our schools only closed down for the spring of 2020. And after that, we did all kinds of work to make sure our kids could be in school as much as possible during the next couple of years, including the year of the testing."

Still, only about half of students in the county are meeting testing standards, which Supahan said might be due to the lack of professional development opportunities for staff.

She also cautioned that student test scores are complex and lower scores might be more indicative of a student's difficulty with test taking than a lack of knowledge.

"A test is not always the best valid measurement of how students are doing in school and how much they know," she said.

Jane Vaughan is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. Jane began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media.