Orange Schools Looking Smart

Education: District's students significantly improve test scores. Ocean View district reports mixed results.

The Orange Unified School District’s standardized test scores posted significant gains at every school and in almost every grade level, with nearly all schools scoring above the national average.


The upbeat scores on the Stanford 9 exam can be traced to the hard work of teachers and students, said Dr. Phil Morse, district administrator for research and assessment, who reported the scores Thursday night at a district meeting. The scores, which also indicate that students are becoming more familiar with the test, show the district is doing as well as others in the county, Morse said.


Results are given in percentiles, ranking students against a nationally selected group of 250,000 students. By definition, the 50th percentile is the national average.


Although gains varied by grade, and by school, nearly all scored in the 50th percentile or higher. Students at Jordan Elementary School posted some of the most dramatic increases. Third-graders, for example, tested in the 32nd percentile in math, compared with results in the 10th percentile last year in the same subject. It was an improvement that Morse lauded at the meeting.


A district statement said the scores reflected the success of English-only classes in the wake of Prop. 227, which barred most bilingual education.


“For a district as diverse as Orange Unified,” Morse said, “these standardized test scores are very significant.”


Morse said that by summer’s end, he wants the results more closely analyzed to compare the gender, socio-economic and ethnic makeup of test-takers districtwide. The breakdown will allow individual schools to tailor their curricula to respond to student needs.


The Ocean View School District on Thursday also made public its standardized test results, with a combination of impressive gains in some areas and alarming drops in others.


Districtwide averages on the Stanford 9 standardized tests ranged mostly from the high 50s to the low 60s, putting the district, which lies mostly in Huntington Beach, above the national norm in every subject in nearly every grade.


The picture was far less rosy for the district’s second-graders, the youngest students who take the test. Among those children, scores improved a bit in math from the previous year and dropped significantly in each of the other subjects: reading, language and spelling. The low point was second-grade spelling: The second-graders ranked in the 44th percentile.


Eighth-grade scores also declined districtwide in every subject, although by smaller margins than in second grade.


“We are disappointed with the second-grade scores. We don’t know why they dropped,” said Karen Colby, director of curriculum and instruction for the district.


Colby said the declines were puzzling because second-graders, like other elementary students, have had smaller class sizes for two years. One possible explanation for the scores, she said, is that significantly fewer parents sought waivers to keep their children from taking the test this year than last. As a result, more students who are still learning English took the tests.


Colby said a school-by-school analysis will be conducted, and principals will be required to submit plans for improvement.


Among individual schools in the Ocean View district, scores varied greatly from grade to grade and subject to subject. At Vista View Middle School, for example, sixth-grade math rankings declined 5 percentile points from the previous year, but seventh-graders beat last year’s class in math by 13 points.


Language scores at Westmont Elementary plummeted 12 points among this year’s second-graders, but third-graders bested their predecessors by 17 points.




Despite the inconsistencies, there were bright spots. At Sun View Elementary, reading scores for third-graders improved by 12 points, to the 47th percentile. Fourth-graders improved 11 points in math, landing them in the 50th percentile, and gained 9 points in spelling to reach the 48th percentile. And every grade at Circle View Elementary School made gains in spelling from the previous year’s scores.



Ocean View Scores Up and Down


Ocean View School District’s scores on the Stanford 9 standardized test rank mostly above the national average, but second-grade scores showed some significant slips. The following percentile listings show how pupils ranked, on average, against a nationally selected group. A score in the 99th percentile, for example, is equal to or higher than all but 1% of the comparison group’s.


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