It all depends

Test scores subject to different interpretations

Divining the significance of standardized student test scores has a lot in common with handicapping political races. Drawing conclusions depends a great deal upon one’s perspective to begin with.

So it is that many San Diego educators will be encouraged by the improvements in the scores that were just released by the state Department of Education.

Per usual, San Diego County students did a little better than did their counterparts statewide. Nationwide, California kids who are fluent in English fared very well at nearly every grade level in reading math and language arts. Factor in our student-immigrant population that is not proficient in English, however, and California scores sag. What’s more, those numbers are somewhat foggy at this point because the San Antonio-based testing company has yet to determine the status of nearly 420,000 students, or approximately 10 percent of the test-takers. It will be at least another week before this colossal mess is finally sorted out.

San Diego city schools have reason to be pleased by the improved student test scores in just about every category. These results should help bolster the district’s campaign to strengthen student reading skills. But Superintendent Alan Bersin still has a long way to go in closing the considerable achievement gap between affluent students and those who are poor and lack proficiency in English.

The test scores have prompted widely different opinions on the efficacy of Proposition 227, which mandates how non-English speaking students are taught. Ron Unz, who championed the measure, points to districts such as Oceanside where significant gains in test scores were achieved by students whose teachers relied for the most part on English. The measure’s critics, meantime, contend the gains are marginal at best, and that other factors, such as smaller class sizes, may account for the improved scores.

This much is certain — California students have a long way to go before they measure up to their counterparts around the globe. The fact that our high school test scores continue to lag below the national average should serve as a constant reminder that much remains to be done to conclusively show that this state is serious about quality education.

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