Stanford 9 scores are welcome sign

WORK TO BE DONE: Performance of lower grades solid, but questions do remain.

No one has suggested the latest results of the state’s academic achievement tests –Ethe Stanford 9 — would prove everything’s rosy with our youth.

Far from it, with critics readying their forces — once again — to suggest there are too many negative factors in the equation to make the tests as meaningful as educators would hope.

While there’s certainly some truth to that scenario, there’s also some merit to the suggestion that progress is being made, and the Stanford 9 results are at least one measurement that’s appropriate to consider relative to progress at various grade levels, in various school districts.

The Stanford 9 is a standardized multiple-choice test that is given annually to more than 4 million public school students in the state, including about 100,000 students in Ventura County.

— At the elementary level, schools registered double-digit increases that educators proudly suggest are the direct result of a state-mandated class-size reduction program, along with more intensive reading and math education programs.

For example, countywide math results for second- and third-graders — where class size has been reduced to 20 students per classroom — have increased 17 percentage points over the past three years.

But the picture changes quickly, with so-so increases for students in fifth through eighth grades, and only moderate improvement as students reach high school.

Critics maintain that the scores are oftentimes more the result of teacher-driven test preparation than are they the result of students knowing much more than they knew before. In other words, the harder the teachers worked the students, the more likely the students were to score better.

Perhaps that’s true. If so, so what?

Consider the success of Conejo Elementary School in Thousand Oaks, which last year was ranked as an underperforming school when 25 percent of its students scored in the bottom 25 percentile.

Teachers, students, staff — and, yes, parents — did what had to be done to turn their school around: They developed crack-the-books programs, including before- and after-school tutoring for reading and math that saw the school score 85 points higher on the Academic Performance Index than a year ago.

This week’s results, though, are only one measure of how students are doing in the classroom.

Still to come will be yet-another round of Stanford 9 results next month. Those will measure low-income, minority and limited-English students, the last of which will be of particular interest given our state’s soaring growth among Hispanics who were unfairly targeted two years ago by Proposition 227, which for all intensive purposes ended bilingual education programs. How those students are faring today will be interesting to see, indeed.

All in all, then, Ventura County has reason to cheer this year’s Stanford 9 results; local educators also have reason to be concerned. There has been progress. So, too, does there need to be more progress.

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