Kern Students Earn Perfection on State Assessments
By a year old, Maisy Jeffreys could tell her parents how to get home from just about anywhere within the routes they usually traveled.
“She’s quite quirky but incredibly witty and intelligent,” said her father, Scott. “Her mother and I are honestly convinced that she has a photographic memory.”
Scott recalls having silly arguments with Maisy at a young age, which were fun and challenging because you couldn’t get anything past her.
The Edison Middle School fifth grader says she wants to begin college courses as soon as possible and aspires to be an architectural engineer one day. If the scores on her latest California assessments are any indication, she is well on her way.
In the vast landscape of Kern County’s public education system, Maisy is among 29 student standouts to score perfectly on the English Language Arts (ELA) and math portions of the annual standardized state assessments they took last spring. Another 300 students scored perfect on one of the assessments. Tests are administered to students in grades third through eighth and 11th every spring, and results are released in the fall. Roughly 105,000 students took the tests countywide last year.
A perfect score is not the end goal, says Kern County Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Mendiburu, but does provide an indication on how students have an understanding of the expected standards. He noted that state tests are only one measure of success and that educators rely on a bevy of information, such as report card grades, classroom assignments, or teacher observations, to better understand student achievement and progress.
“But all success serves as a steppingstone toward future aspirations and should be celebrated,” he said. “Whether it’s pursuing college or career, or aiming to make meaningful contributions to society, these students are propelled by a thirst for knowledge and a drive to succeed.”
Like Maisy, Nicole Vasquez Cruz also has big dreams for her future, driven by her strong desire to make her parents proud.
“I know the sacrifices they [her parents] made coming to a new country from Mexico,” said the eighth-grade Sunset Middle School student. “I want to honor them by becoming someone important like a doctor or professor.”
Vineland School District Superintendent Cindy Castro was overjoyed when speaking about Nicole’s accomplishments. She scored perfect in ELA and nearly perfect in math, Castro said.
The Vineland School District is situated amongst vast farmland between Lamont and Arvin.
“She’s the oldest of three siblings from a Spanish-speaking household and has been with us since Kindergarten,” Castro said. “She is truly an amazing student. Her attention to detail and the ability to think outside the box is incredible. We are all so proud of her.”
A couple of Golden Valley High School seniors are also celebrating perfection. In fact, Gabriella Magaña is one of just two 11th graders countywide to scored perfect on both her ELA and math assessments last spring.
“My curiosity motivates me to understand the ‘why’ behind the material I learn, so I can spend hours thinking about each concept until I’m satisfied with my understanding of it,” said Gabriella. “The struggle behind understanding each lesson is what makes the result satisfying.”
She plans to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering from University of California Irvine, Cal Poly SLO, or UCLA. With a keen interest in the physical aspects of engineering, she aspires to become a robotics engineer.
Fellow Golden Valley senior Marisela De La Rosa was perfect on the ELA portion. Described as a true “Renaissance Woman,” Marisela possesses rare gifts for math, engineering, English, and dance. She has been a committed part of the Golden Valley Ballet Folklorico group for the past three years.
“It has allowed me to embrace my culture in a way I hadn’t been able to before,” she said. “Through choreographing and teaching dances to the members, I have gained valuable leadership, patience, and communication skills, all while doing what I loved.”
Marisela has her sights set on attending UCSB, UCLA, or Cal Poly SLO next year and plans to pursue a career in economics with a focus on becoming an investment or data analyst while continuing her passion for dance.
Analyzing Assessment Results
Before the pandemic, Kern County’s California Assessments of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) results in both ELA and math showed significant growth from the year the tests were implemented in the 2014-15 school year through 2018-19. The assessments were put on hiatus for two years during the height of the pandemic (2019-20 and 2020-21 school years) and resumed during the 2021-22 school year.
Over the past two years, data affirms the many challenges created by the pandemic and the impact of distance learning, chronic absences, social-emotional wellness, and other disruptions like staffing shortages had on student progress.
While achievement continues to lag behind pre-pandemic levels, Kern County students made modest growth during the last school year compared to the school year prior. Moreover, achievement growth for Kern County students outpaced that of California students collectively.
Experts say that by analyzing the data derived from these assessments, educators gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of teaching methods, identify areas needing additional focus, and tailor instruction to meet student needs better.
CAASPP assessment results are available to the public at HERE.
By Robert Meszaros
Rob Meszaros is Director of Communications for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, where he has served since 2012. In his role, Meszaros oversees media relations, internal and external communication strategies, publications, Marcom, branding, and multi-media content creation. Before joining KCSOS, Meszaros was the PIO for CSU Bakersfield and earlier worked for seven years at The Bakersfield Californian.