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District Test Scores Continue To Climb

By Jorge Casuso

August 27 -- Test scores in math, reading and language rose for all grade levels at every elementary and middle school across the district and either rose or remained stable at the high school level, according to this year's Stanford 9 test results released Tuesday.

When compared to test scores from four years ago (1999), SAT-9 Total Reading, Language, and Total Mathematics mean national percentile scores of elementary and middle school students in grades 2 through 8 increased in all 21 grade level/subject combinations. (Test results by school)

"I'm really gratified that our efforts to focus on literacy and mathematics, and the Board of Education's constant support, are paying off;" said School Board President Julia Brownley.

"We are extremely proud of our continued growth and are now concentrating our energies and expertise on eliminating achievement gaps between Anglo and non-Anglo students, while ensuring even higher achievement levels for all groups," said Superintendent John Deasy.

In the district's ten elementary schools, the mean national percentile scores in the state-mandated exam ranged from the 81st percentile in 5th grade Math to the 70th percentile in 4th grade reading. These scores significantly exceed those of most school districts in the nation, according to district officials.

When compared to four years ago, scores at the elementary schools continued to rise in all 12 grade level/subject combinations. In addition, the percentages of students scoring at least at the 50th national percentile (the national average for the test norming group) ranged from 81 percent in 4th and 5th grade Math to 72 percent in 3rd grade Reading.

"These scores affirm our belief that all students can and will learn at high levels," Deasy said.

At the district's middle schools, scores continued to rise in all 9 grade level/subject combinations, compared to four years ago, with the mean national percentile scores ranging from the 76th percentile in 6th grade Math to the 66th percentile in 8th grade Math.

The percentages of middle school students scoring at least at the 50th national percentile ranged from 77 percent in 8th grade Language to 66 percent in 8th grade Math.

Scores also were up at Santa Monica and Malibu high schools, where the mean national percentile scores ranged from the 73rd percentile in 9th grade Math to the 47th percentile in 10th grade Reading.

When compared to four years ago, scores at the high schools improved in six of the nine grade level/subject combinations and were stable in the others. The percentages of students scoring above the 50th national percentile ranged from 71 percent in 9th grade Math to 51 percent in 10th grade Reading.

Schools with particularly impressive growth patterns over the past four years included John Muir, Grant and Rogers elementary schools and John Adams Middle School.

District officials noted that the improvement was even more marked when compared to 1998 scores, the first year the SAT-9s were given.

"This is a very conservative presentation," said Dr. Steven Frankel, Director of Standards, Assessment and Data. "We could have shown larger gains by going back five years to 1998, but since 1999 was when our efforts became focused across all schools, we opted to use that year as our baseline."

Franklin Elementary, located in the city's wealthy Montana neighborhood where resources are more plentiful, was the highest scoring elementary school. Grades at the school ranged from the 80th percentile in 2nd grade Reading to the 93rd percentile in 3rd grade Math.

Conversely, scores at Edison Elementary, located in the low-income Pico Neighborhood, were the lowest, ranging from the 41st percentile in 2nd grade Reading to the 70th percentile in 2nd grade Math. But Edison also saw some of the greatest improvement in the district, with 20 and 21 point jumps in 2nd grade Language and Math respectively, compared to four years ago.

Test scores continued to improve markedly at John Muir Elementary, especially in math, where scores soared 34, 36, 31 and 26 points in grades two, three, four and five respectively, compared to four years ago.

Heavy emphasis has been placed on the importance of test scores by parents, politicians and teachers because of the consequences they can have. Scores, which are used as part of the state's highly touted and highly flawed Academic Performance Index, will likely influence student scholarships and teacher pay, as well as have an impact on housing prices.

However, in the past both educators and officials have cautioned against placing too much emphasis on test scores. They contend that the scores are only one of several components used to assess student achievement in the district's 16 schools.

Test scores for seniors, who take the SAT college entrance exam instead of the Stanford test, were unavailable for the local high schools but across the nation the average total score held steady this year, compared with 2001. Math scores, however, reached a 32-year high and verbal scores declined slightly after years of remaining flat, according to results released Tuesday.

Once again, the average combined score nationwide for the math and verbal parts of the SAT was 1020 out of a possible 1600. The average math score rose two points to 516, while the verbal score dipped two points to 504, the lowest verbal score in six years. The SAT was given to 1.3 million seniors at both public and private schools.

Wire reports contributed to this article.
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