BELLFLOWER – Bellflower Unified students improved on their strong first-year performance in the state’s second round of standardized testing on the new California Standards for English language arts (ELA) and math, according to data released Wednesday.

The two tests are the centerpiece of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), administered to grades three through eight, and grade 11. The exams, created by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, gauge writing, critical thinking and problem-solving skills far beyond the scope of California’s previous standardized tests.

“We are pleased with our students’ exemplary performance on the Smarter Balanced tests, especially in English, but we are mostly focused on using the information from this and other measures to refine our instruction so all students graduate ready for college and careers,” Superintendent Dr. Brian Jacobs said.

The new test scores offer the first chance for schools to track growth in student understanding of the California Standards, implemented three years ago. The standards focus on student-driven instruction, collaboration, integration of technology and critical thinking.

In Bellflower Unified, scores matched or beat 2015 numbers by up to 4 percentage points for some student groups, including high-needs groups like English learners.

The District outperformed the county in English language arts for all students as well as for such student subgroups as economically disadvantaged students, English learners, Latinos and African American students. Those same subgroups also outperformed state averages for English language arts and matched or beat state averages in math.

District leaders credit the climbing performance to the use of teacher input to build professional development opportunities for teachers to refine instructional strategies, a P.E. program that gives teachers collaboration time to review student performance data together, an early transition to the new standards, and building the capacity of teacher leadership to support teachers as they develop standards-based lesson plans.

In math, the District has worked with the UC Irvine Math Project and was early to adopt a standards-aligned math curriculum. In English language arts, the District uses instructional strategies like Thinking Maps to help students engage in collaborative conversations when analyzing literature and information, and structures lesson plans to ensure students are supported as they try new tasks.

Bellflower Unified was also early to integrate digital tools into classroom instruction and increased opportunities for students to access technology during the school day, ensuring students would be comfortable with the tests’ online format and adept with tools needed to take the computer-based assessments.

“All of our efforts are designed to achieve one overriding goal – to ensure our children receive the best possible instruction and every opportunity to succeed,” Board of Education President Dr. Paul Helzer said. “These test scores are not only a testament to the dedication of our teachers and staff to pursuing that goal, but they will provide us with another tool as we continue to bolster that effort.”

The CAASPP is one of multiple measures of student performance in a new state public school accountability system now under design. Other measures may include graduation data, school climate, discipline, and college and career readiness.