Nearly all scores of North County students with limited fluency in English improved on the Stanford Achievement Test-Ninth Edition, reflecting gains across San Diego County and the state, test results released today show.

Improved scores were also recorded among the so-called economically disadvantaged, a group of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch programs.

The gains by those in the county with limited fluency in English mirrored the gains by students who are fluent in English. The gains by students from poorer economic backgrounds were not as strong as the improvements registered by those from wealthier families.

Throughout California and San Diego County, students from poorer backgrounds scored below average in almost all subjects at almost all grade levels. More affluent students scored above average.

The results, released by the state Department of Education, come from the scores of about 4.3 million public school students in California who took the SAT-9 last spring. It was the third year of testing.

In North County, like the state and countywide results, the predominant pattern was below-average scores for students who are not fluent in English.
In most subjects at most grade levels, those students scored below average in most school districts. Still, gains over last year were posted in most cases.

The exception was the Vista Unified School District, where the scores of students not fluent in English fell in 26 of the 43 tests.

For those not fluent in English in the Poway Unified School District, scores were above the average in math in all except the 10th grade, but more than half of all the scores were below average.

Scores for North County students not fluent in English ranged from the fourth percentile in 10th-grade reading in the San Dieguito High School District —- meaning at least 96 percent of those tested nationwide did as well or better —- to the 90th percentile in second-grade math in the Cardiff Elementary district.

The Solana Beach Elementary district saw one of North County’s biggest gains, a 43-point boost in spelling in the second grade. The same district saw one of the biggest reversals, a 14-point drop in reading in the fourth grade.

In July, the state released overall SAT-9 results that showed improvements over earlier years. Today’s data breaks the overall scores down to show the performance of students fluent in English and those who are not fluent,
along with the scores of students from relatively poor backgrounds and those from better economic circumstances.

In San Diego County, the main gains for students with limited English came in second and third-grade math.

County officials said Monday the gap between rich and poor is a concern.

“I like the improvements, but I don’t like the gap between the affluent and the nonaffluent,” said Jack Tierney, assessment coordinator for the county Office of Education. “The main thing is how are we going to close that gap,
because it’s there, it’s pronounced. We’ve got to address that better.”

Tierney said the county education office is taking steps in that direction.

For the first time this fall semester, he said, teachers will be able to identify where their students are weak and how much they must improve to meet minimum standards of competence.

“The teachers will know where the kids are low, by how much and by subject,”
Tierney said, noting that the county has developed an academic performance index for each classroom. “The teachers can develop a game plan and start working on it from day one. That’s the best possible way to close the gap.”

Countywide, that gap shows up in every subject at every grade level. In second-grade reading, for example, the more affluent tested in the 71st percentile and the less affluent in the 41st. To score in the 50th percentile means a student did as well or better than half those in a nationwide sample who took the same test.

The SAT-9 looks at reading, math and language for grades two through 11;
spelling for grades two through eight; and science and social sciences for grades 11 and 12. The result is 43 separate scores, in each subject at each grade level, expressed as percentiles.

In the county as a whole, six of those 43 scores were below the 50th percentile. Three were in high school reading; two were in spelling, in the fourth and eighth grades; and the other was in 10th-grade social science.

Students in the county whose native language is not English were well below the 50th percentile in all grades in all subjects. Their strongest results were in math, where second graders hit the 49th percentile and third graders scored in the 48th.

The scores of the less affluent students fell under the mid-point in 41 of the 43 areas. Only in math in the second and third grades did those scores exceed the 50th percentile.

The test results will help form the basis for an official state grade for the schools, the Academic Performance Index. Schools must show that poorer students and those not fluent in English made 80 percent of a school’s overall target for improvement.

The SAT-9 is one of a battery of tests in the state’s $40.6 million 2000 Standardized Testing and Reporting program. It is the only one counted toward the API.

The Academic Performance Index is expected to be released this fall.

Contact Bruce Kauffman at (760) 761-4410 or

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