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Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta had the highest scores in the Santa Barbara Unified School District when compared to San Marcos and Santa Barbara highs. They even saw higher scores than the state average. Credit: Rebecca Caraway / Noozhawk photo

Dos Pueblos High, San Marcos, and Santa Barbara high schools saw an increase in students meeting or exceeding English standards on the state’s Smarter Balanced test last year.

In California, students from third through eighth grades take the state assessment test in the spring, and then again in 11th grade to evaluate their performance a year before they are supposed to graduate.

Of the three schools, Dos Pueblos saw the highest scores in the district in both English language arts/literacy (ELA) and math.

While there is noticeable improvements from 2022, English and math scores aren't where they were in 2019, before the pandemic.

In 2019, 59.9% of 11th graders in the Santa Barbara Unified School District met or exceeded standards in English. In the same year, 40.5% of 11th graders met or exceeded standards in math.

High school students only take the smarter balanced test once in their high school career, meaning it is a different cohort of students from year to the next.

Dos Pueblos English scores increased from last year and were even higher than the state average.

In 2022, 69.7% of Dos Pueblos students met or exceeded standards in English and 47.1% met or exceeded standards in math.

This year, 72.0% of Dos Pueblos 11th graders met or exceeded the English standards and 45.7% met or exceeded the standards in math.

“It feels good to share some wins, and to feel good about the hard work that all of our teachers and staff are doing,” Dos Pueblos Principal Bill Woodard said. 

At Dos Pueblos, English scores has risen since the pandemic but math scores have slightly decreased. In 2019, 58.3% of Dos Pueblos students met or exceeded standards and 47.2% met or exceeded standards in math.

Woodard credits Dos Pueblos' emphasis on critical thinking and a good campus culture to student success.

Woodard told Noozhawk that they have pushed to have college level curriculum in all their classes in order to engage students with higher level thinking skills.

They’ve also been focusing on mental health on campus in the post pandemic years, the campus even coined the phrase “Good Vibes High” to set the tone for the last school year.

“We’re really focusing on making sure every student has a connection to this campus, identifying at least one trusted adult on campus, and celebrating a positive school culture that tries to be solution oriented versus just perseverating on problems,” Woodard told Noozhawk. 

San Marcos also saw an improvement in their scores from 2022.

This year, 55.79% of students met or exceeded the standards in English which is nearly 6% more than in 2022.

While only 31.90% of students met or exceeded standards in math, there is an improvement from 2022 when only 28.36% met or exceeded standards. This makes San Marcos the only district high school to see an increase in math scores from 2022.

Santa Barbara High saw 42.80% of students meet or exceed standards in English, nearly 10% more from the year before. Math scores, however, slightly decreased from 2022 when 23.71% met or exceeded standards. This year, 22% of students met or exceeded math standards. 

Across the district –and the state– math scores are lower than English scores. On the smarter balanced test, students are being tested on concepts up to Algebra 2.

Woodard told Noozhawk that these tests ask students to apply what they know to real world, open-ended problems, something that most students don’t have practice solving.

As well as continuing to develop critical thinking skills in students, Woodard said they want to prepare students for the mathematical problems they’ll face on state testing and in college.

“We want to continue to develop our students' mathematical reasoning and ability to communicate their mathematical thinking, because those are the skills that colleges want to see,” Woodard told Noozhawk. “We're working on developing more common assessments in math that kind of mirror the types of skills that the students will see on these exams.”