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First Local Results of New State Pupil Tests Unveiled

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The first of Ventura County’s 17 school districts have released results of a much-anticipated statewide test, a historic effort to gauge the knowledge of California’s public school children in key subjects.

The Pleasant Valley School District in Camarillo, Oxnard Union High School District and the Ojai Unified School District unveiled scores Friday for the Stanford 9 exams, given this spring to students in grades 2 through 11.

Other districts, including Ventura and Conejo Valley unified school districts, are expected to release scores next week.

“I sense a real optimism among educators who see this as an opportunity to improve how they work with kids,” said county schools Supt. Charles Weis, who met Friday with school leaders to discuss the basic skills test.

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The Stanford 9, the first standardized test in California since 1994, was given to 4.2 million students statewide.

The test measures skills in reading, mathematics, language and spelling. For grades 9 through 11, the test also measures knowledge of science and history.

In the Pleasant Valley elementary district, officials released partial results showing students in all grade levels performing well above the national average in reading and math.

Sixth-grade students turned in the best performance, scoring in the 72nd percentile in math and the 65th percentile in reading.

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That means on the math portion of the test, Camarillo’s sixth-graders did better than 75% of the sixth-grade students in a national sample. And in reading, they did better than 65% of sixth-graders in that sample.

“We feel really good about our scores,” said Barbara Wagner, the district’s director of instructional programs. “All in all, we feel that we’ve established a good baseline to work from.”

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In the Oxnard high school district, the highest scores were turned in by 11th-graders, who scored in the 51st percentile in history and above the 40th percentile in math, language and science.

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The district’s lowest scores were in reading, where ninth-grade students were in the 28th percentile, 10th-graders in the 26th percentile and 11th-graders in the 34th percentile.

Those scores, however, are affected by the fact that 1,749 students with limited English proficiency were part of the testing pool. Many educators around the state have been concerned that scores would be low because many students who are not fluent in English were required to take the test.

In the 4,200-student Ojai district, scores were near or above the national average in all subjects.

Eighth-graders were the highest performers, ranking in the 67th percentile in reading, 65th percentile in math and 69th percentile in language. The lowest scores hovered just above the 40th percentile, including second-graders in spelling and 11th-graders in reading.

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“I’m really very pleased with how we did,” said Ojai Supt. Gwen Gross, who revealed the results to board members earlier this week. “We feel there is great room for improvement, but it puts us all on the same page and allows us to continue to develop a sound educational system.”

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Districts across Ventura County are at various stages of releasing scores from the Stanford 9, the largest attempt to measure academic achievement in state history.

Some districts chose to release the results shortly after receiving them, seeking to inform the school board and the public as soon as possible. Others will wait until June 30 to do so, when all school scores will be posted on the Internet by the state Department of Education.

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In the meantime, districts also are sending home reports that show how each student scored in each subject measured against a national sample.

Schools in the Conejo Valley district, for instance, are mailing individual scores to students over the weekend.

Also, district officials will spend next week preparing summaries of the district’s overall performance, Assistant Supt. Richard Simpson said.

“The good news for us is that preliminary results show there has been virtually no change in reading or language scores from last year,” said Simpson, noting that officials administered the Stanford 8 test last year. “Actually, it looks like there might even be a 1% gain.”

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Simi Valley has already mailed results to students and plans to post an overall summary on the Internet June 30, district officials said. A full report to the school board is expected in July.

Trustees in Ventura and the Oxnard high school district are scheduled to receive detailed reports on the test results at board meetings next week.

Although the test scores are important, educators stress they are only one source of information on student performance. And even after all the results are known, officials say they will spend months combing through the data to determine where the curriculum needs to be improved.

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“One of the things about assessment is that it is multifaceted,” said Gross, who is scheduling information nights at Ojai schools to help explain the results to parents.

“This test must be taken into consideration with all the other assessment measures we’re doing in the district,” she said. “But this provides an additional piece of information that will allow us to focus on how to improve our schools and better help our students.”

Times correspondent Joel P. Engardio contributed to this story.


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