Ray of Hope

Youngest students lead with major gains on Stanford 9

MAJOR gains on the Stanford 9 test by the Los Angeles Unified School District’s youngest students offer hope that reform measures, virtual elimination of bilingual education and intensified effort are producing positive results.

The same cannot be said for students in junior and senior high. Very little, if any, progress was made in the four years since standardized testing was introduced.

Leaders of the nation’s second-largest school district have betrayed every promise made to parents and students for a generation, and the results are visible in the Stanford 9 test scores for older students.

But reductions in class size, abandonment of ludicrous experimentation with unproven classroom materials in favor of a return-to-basics approach, and greater attention to teacher training are credited with improvements in elementary school student performance.

The gains are particularly dramatic among third-graders, whose test scores in reading jumped 6 percentage points in the past year and 13 points since the 1997-98 school year while their math scores were up 7 percentage points over last year and 19 points over 1997-98.

That still leaves LAUSD’s third-graders in the 34th percentile in reading and in the 49th percentile in math compared with third-graders across the nation.

In contrast, ninth- and 10th-graders showed no improvement or fell slightly in both reading and math, leaving them in the 23rd percentile in reading and below the 40th percentile in math.

Superintendent Roy Romer, never shy about blowing his own horn, was so excited about the positive side of the results that he jumped the gun and released the grade-by-grade scores a day early in hopes of maximizing publicity for the downtrodden LAUSD.

It’s funny how the educational establishment opposes standardized testing and pooh-poohs the results when they are bad but crows when they are good.

Still, in this case, the LAUSD clearly has something to crow about.

The successes among younger students point to how big the job ahead is. The same energy and resources need to be focused on older students, and the LAUSD administration and faculty must redouble their efforts to sustain the progress that has been made.

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