Stanford 9 test scores show gain

State's students performing at or above national average

After a three-week delay, California education officials Thursday released the state’s highly anticipated test scores, showing across-the-board improvements both at local and statewide levels.

The mind-numbing batch of Stanford 9 test scores — including those for every public school in the state — show English-fluent students are performing as well as or better than their national peers in reading, language and mathematics.

Scores typically were in the upper 50 percent range. The national average is 50 percent, with 1 percent being the lowest score on the test and 99 percent the highest. As expected, scores for the state’s non-English-speaking students — while on the rise — still are well below the national average.

Lows in the single digits in several categories to a high of 33 percent in second-grade math were reported.

“Not surprisingly, these scores demonstrate that it is difficult for these students to do well in academic content areas until they are proficient in English,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. “Schools must make teaching English a top priority.”

This is the second year of the Stanford 9 in California. During the spring semester, 4.6 million students in grades two through 11 took the examination in reading, math and language for all grades; spelling for grades two through eight; and science and social science for high school students.

Locally, Alameda and San Mateo counties posted enviable scores for all students — above the national average in most cat-egories. Those overall scores included the scores of limited-English students.

Alameda County showed increases in every category at every grade level.

San Joaquin County reported gains in all but three of the 38 categories tested — with a 1percent decline in eighth-grade reading and ninth-grade reading and science. The county’s scores, however, all were below the national average, with a high of 46 percent in ninth-grade math.

Eastin attributed the state’s overall rise in scores to programs such as class size reduction and a longer school year.

“It shows that in fact overall and in balance, some of the reforms we’ve enacted in the last four years are having an effect,” she added. “It also shows that while our students who are not fluent in English are improving, we have work to do.”

The state requires Stanford 9 scores to be posted by June 30, but computer programming errors by test maker Harcourt Educational Measurement resulted in the three-week delay. Only statewide scores for all students were reported on time.

The errors resulted in inaccurate results for non-English-speaking students and for schools on a year-round schedule.

Initially, the problems came to light as districts questioned scores showing dramatic gains for students who do not speak English. While Thursday’s scores do show gains for those students, they are not as high as initially believed.

The test cost $34 million, or about $7.85 per student. Because of the problems, the State Board of Education is scheduled to consider holding back a portion of the $23.5 million owed to Harcourt.

The standardized testing program is part of a statewide accountability package and will be used this year to rank the state’s 8,000 public schools.

Several hundred of the lowest performing schools will be chosen to participate in a reform program to improve scores or suffer financial or staffing consequences.

“It’s imperative we get this right,” Eastin said of score accuracy. “To a great extent we’re hanging our hat on this test.”

This was the first year students were given an additional section of questions to evaluate performance on the state’s recently adopted standards in math, reading and writing.

This year’s scores on the new section set a baseline from which to judge future improvement. Scores generally hovered around 50 percent correct answers on that section.

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