SB Unified’s Test Score Growth Fueled by Ongoing Commitment to Improvement

By the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SB Unified)

The Santa Barbara Unified School District is pleased to announce that preliminary 2022-2023 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) test scores are trending in the right direction since the pandemic.

There was growth in English Language Arts (literacy), resulting in an overall of 50.3% meeting or exceeding the state standards. This represents an increase of 2.7% from the 21-22 school year. In Mathematics, the district’s overall math scores also grew by 2.57%.  

Comparison Data by District 




Met/ Exceed





Exceed Standards



2021-22 Math%

Met/Exceed Standards

2022-23 Math%

Met/Exceed Standards










The 2021-2022 school year was the first time after COVID-19 the CAASPP was offered in Santa Barbara Unified, creating a new baseline for scores. These 2022-2023 school year numbers are preliminary and may change slightly when the final report is published in the Fall by the California Department of Education.

Greatest Growth for Hispanic/Latino Students

One of the most important goals and values for SB Unified is to ensure all students receive rigorous standards-based education. We are proud of the outstanding achievement of the administration and staff in schools with the greatest growth for Hispanic/Latino students in both ELA and Math who have historically lagged compared to other student groups.  Latino/a students represent the majority of student enrollment at 60.7%, followed by White at 30.6%, and other ethnicities include (Two or more races, Asian, Black, Filipino, Native American, Pacific Islander) number between 0.5% and 3%.

Latino Student Percent Test Score Growth from 2021-22 to 2022-23 School Year


ELA Growth

Math Growth













La Colina



Dos Pueblos



San Marcos 







“We’re proud of the continued growth in the right direction throughout the District. This trend is a reflection of the professional work of our teachers, faculty, and staff to give Every Child, Every Chance, Every Day,” said Dr. Hilda Maldonado, Superintendent.

The district has several initiatives underway, focusing on maximizing our resources to address the needs of each child. In the past couple of years, the District partnered with experts in instruction to build professional capacity and learning. For example, all elementary teachers engaged in a book study of “Teaching Reading,” and secondary educators worked on “The Success Criteria Playbook.” 

Right now, District and school leaders are analyzing the data to determine the next steps and how we can continue to improve test scores. This process includes principals building site-specific plans to meet the unique needs of each school. This year, the District is implementing the Wit & Wisdom and Fundations curriculum to improve evidence-based teaching aligned with standards. The Elementary team and site leaders will be going on “Learning Walks” at each school two or three times this year. These collaborative learning walks will focus on student learning, building strong and meaningful relationships with our teachers and staff, and guiding our decisions for continued professional learning support. 

The Secondary schools are concentrating on rigorous standards-based lessons for all students, known as High-Quality Tier 1 Instruction. They are working with the implementation of UDL – Universal Design for Learning in classes, which helps teachers learn how to ensure they meet the needs of all learners, such as visual, auditory, spatial, and more. The secondary schools will also be working on a plan to implement Learning Walks to continue improving teaching and learning for every child.

The final CAASPP report and complete school breakdowns will be released in November.

The attached charts display the overall numbers of Santa Barbara Unified and schools that made strides in closing the achievement gap for Hispanic/ Latino Students.


Written by SBUnified

Press releases written by the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD). Learn more at

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  1. To get a clear picture of how students are doing looking at the 3rd grade reading proficiency by student subgroups is ideal. Subgroups are our 5 most vulnerable student groups namely students with learning differences, students whose primary language is not english, foster youth, homeless and students with economic hardship who have been years behind their peers in 3rd grade reading proficiency and college readiness which can be found by looking at how many students took the A-G classes , required high school courses needed to be eligible to apply to a UC. Without the A-G a student can apply to SBCC, a great school that can be quite challenging if a student is not proficient in reading and math. SBCC no longer offers remediation which is what many of the students needed before graduating. All five subgroups matter though Superintendent Maldonado rarely talks about special ed, which has very high case loads and students who are behind . Only 5.7% of our EML, emergent multilingual students and only 12% of students with learning differences took the A-Gs in 21/22.
    One thing Superintendent seems to be downplaying is that the new curriculum is part of the”science of reading” rather than the flawed “balanced literacy” approach the district clung to for decades. Next steps for improvement would be universal screening to catch students who are struggling early. . This will come to California public schools by 2025 but there is no reason we have to wait for it. Reducing class sizes and offering remediation to students who are behind . Creating a proactive culture around reading will go a long way to help our students. Right now we wait until a student is in the bottom 25% before offering special help. Often students are given ‘too little, too late”, instead of being helped in the first grade in a meaningful way. Also we have many older students like La Cuesta which only 8% are proficient in reading and math. Don’t these students need intensive interventions ? Shouldn’t all our students take the A-G’s?

  2. At the current pace we should be a solid D- in literacy in three years. Big improvement over the current F.
    Math? Let’s go back to literacy. Math scores are too depressing.
    That said, keep up the progress and when I’m 100 years old you can say “i told you so” when math scores crack a solid C-

    • Looking at the proficiency rates of any school, district or county across the country with higher rates of economically disadvantaged or students of color is pretty sad.
      Just saying, this is more than a Hilda issue or local schools issue. Look at Montana, Florida schools etc…
      However, it is worth looking for pockets of success. With the public PR beatings, it makes sense for them to shine some light on positives.

  3. Oh brother, yet another self-congratulatory press release from SBUSD. It pains me to think how much time and effort those highly-paid district administrators are putting into all this PR messaging. To me, it reads like toxic positivity.
    I personally don’t think a 2-3% increase is statistically significant enough to celebrate, especially since they are only sharing data for the past 2 years. Regardless, half of our kids are still below grade level in ELA and nearly 2/3 are below grade level in math. And these are scores from last school year; the district has lost a lot of teachers and staff since then.
    SBUSD, what are you doing to stop the exodus of experienced teachers and avert a teachers’ strike? If it’s true, as you write, that “one of the most important goals and values for SB Unified is to ensure all students receive rigorous standards-based education,” then why are you content letting students learn from long-term subs and software instead of raising salaries enough to hire and retain credentialed teachers?

    • Scores are improving, so I really sorta don’t get it. What will it take to make people happy? We only have 2 years of data because of the pandemic. The key to seeing if the data is significant is to see if we get the same 2-3% improvement each year. You are not going to see a 10-20% improvement unless there’s a huge change of actual students, like the poor performing kids all move away to be replaced by rich kids.
      You aren’t wrong about how to prevent experienced teachers from leaving. A lot have retired or moved. The teacher salaries in SB Unified are too low to keep good staff. That hurts, and it’s only going to get worse.
      On the ground, so to speak, I’ve seen what schools are doing to improve performance (changing the reading curriculum, adding reading specialists, adding intervention time across the board, summer school). So, I see what the schools are actually doing.

  4. I am skeptical because the system tends to protect itself rather than being transparent. This article seems to require us to just believe the Superintendent while the community does not have access to the same data.
    How are the A-G graduation rates ? How are our vulnerable students doing with reading by end of third grade and college readiness?
    When you listen to the public comments from teachers at the May 9th board meeting and the Sept 22nd meeting it is clear that students in special ed needs are not being met. One SB High english special ed teacher shared that “in his 18 years of teaching he has only had no more than half a dozen reading at grade level. please let’s get that fixed. I’ve asked every Superintendent and I can’t do it alone.” Another said they had 39 caseloads, no time to prepare, and that the district was out of compliance”.
    It will be interesting to get the State’s data in November.

  5. Basically, the odds that a child will learn to read in Santa Barbara Unified are no better than a coin toss. Think of it in more personal terms–in a classroom of say 30 students, 15 of them cannot read at grade level, and because of the disastrous Lucy Calkins curriculum, many of those kids are totally lacking foundational reading skills. This is so far below acceptable I cannot believe the district has the nerve to present it as anything positive. There is no other institution at all where 50 percent is good enough, and this is what they’re doing to the children of our community who one day will grow up to be the workforce of Santa Barbara. Where is the remediation plan for the 50 percent who cannot read? If this district had any kind of decent leadership, they would set a time-limited goal, as happens in well-run organizations. But there’s never a goal for them and it’s only the struggling children who bear the consequences.

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