Schools may lose funds over test scores

19 area campuses had too many exemptions

Nineteen local public schools could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in expected reward money for test-score improvements because not enough of their students took state-required exams.

Administrators contacted yesterday did not have clear answers to why so many parents submitted forms exempting their children from taking the Stanford 9 tests of basic skills.

The tests are mandatory for all second- through 11th-graders in California public schools. The law requiring the testing also allows parents to choose not to have their children take the tests.

The testing’s intent is to show how students are doing from year to year and bring public pressure on schools to improve, said Bill Padia, director of policy and evaluation for the state Department of Education.

If a large number of students exempted are non-English-speakers or students who typically don’t perform well on tests, a school’s scores would not show its true performance, Padia said. In those cases, reporting scores and rewarding schools for improvements would run counter to the intent of testing and could undermine public confidence in the system, he said.

The California Department of Education has created a list of schools where at least 10 percent of students were excused to put schools on notice that they may be disqualified from receiving reward money. The department has asked schools to document that the test-takers were representative of the school populations in ethnicity, language ability and other categories to retain their eligibility for the money.

In the South Bay Union School District, eight schools made the 10 percent list.

Charles Milligan, director of curriculum and evaluation for South Bay, said a large number of exemption requests probably came from parents of non-English-speakers. Those students also have to take Spanish-language state tests.

Milligan said parents may have been concerned about too much testing and may have wanted to protect their children from the damage that low scores on English-language tests would do to their self-esteem.

But Milligan added that the scores for all schools in South Bay are valid because the test-takers at each school were representative of the entire school’s population.

Robyn Perlin, assistant superintendent for educational services at the Cajon Valley Union School District, said most of the students excused were non-English-speakers in the district’s bilingual education program. But most of the schools’ non-English-speakers took the test, she said.

“I feel confident the (test) scores represent the school(s) as a whole,” Perlin said.

Bonnie Drolet, assistant superintendent for Encinitas elementary schools, said it’s difficult to say why two schools there made the list.

“We just have some parents who do not believe in testing. Either their students are nervous about test-taking, or they have test phobia, or they don’t want timed testing,” Drolet said.

There’s a lot of money at stake.

The state plans to distribute $677 million in reward money to schools across the state where spring test scores are improved over those from 1999. Schools that meet state improvement goals could receive rewards of up to $150 per student plus bonuses of $700 to $800 for all employees. Schools that scored poorly last year and posted the largest gains statewide could get up to $25,000 per teacher.

“We’re giving a lot of money based on the school’s performance, not selected students’ performance,” Padia said.

Statewide, an average of 1.2 percent of students were excused from testing by their parents.

The local schools with at least 10 percent exemptions are: Cajon Valley Middle (14.23) and Johnson (15.11), Lexington (19.87) and Naranca (10.14) elementary schools in the Cajon Valley Union School District; Los Altos Elementary (19.41) in the Chula Vista Elementary School District; Capri (15.62) and Paul Ecke-Central (21.4) elementary schools in the Encinitas Union School District; Kempton Street Elementary (20.92) in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District; Central (13.59), Kimball (23.68), Las Palmas (16.5), Lincoln Acres
(10.27) and Olivewood (14.55) elementary schools in the National School District; and Bayside (13.75), Central (14.12), Emory (12.12), Nestor (22.78), Nicoloff (21.51), Oneonta (18.71), Pence (13.66) and Sunnyslope (15.45) elementary schools in the South Bay Union School District.

All but Johnson and Naranca are eligible for the rewards.

In addition to the schools flagged by the state, the San Diego Unified School District had already withdrawn the scores of 12 schools with exemption rates higher than 10 percent.

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