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Move Over, Angels: The Stanford 9 Is Big News This Week

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Forget the Asian economic crisis, the governor’s race and even the Angels’ quest for a pennant. The big news story this week is the results of California’s latest standardized achievement tests. They will be posted on the World Wide Web on Tuesday and dissected by reporters and policymakers statewide.

But on a smaller and quieter level, parents will be getting scores in the mail that matter most to them: their own children’s scores.

Some scores have already gone home. And most districts also are mailing parents a cover letter with additional information about the exam and how the school as a whole scored.

Virtually every student in California from grades 2 to 11, including most of those with limited English skills or special needs, took the exam sometime from March to May. The Stanford 9, as the exam is known, tests reading, writing and math for those grades, as well as science and social studies for ninth, 10th and 11th graders.

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Educators have said that the test is useful in three ways: as an indicator of student achievement; as a measure of the curriculum taught in each grade; and as a baseline for comparison in future years. School administrators will be spending much of July and August analyzing the results of the multiple-choice test and putting out reports on their meaning.

But what meaning can you glean from your own child’s report?

Adding to the confusion, there are two types of reports on individual students, one called a home report, the other a student report. Both provide national percentiles, which is “the easiest and most meaningful way” to compare how your child scored in relation to those in other states, said Linda Purrington, the principal at El Morro Elementary School in Laguna Beach. Most school districts, including Laguna, are sending home the simpler home report.

The home report grades a student’s results in terms of National Grade Percentile Ranks. For example, if it says the child scored a 90 in total math, it means that student scored higher than 90% of the national sample of students in that grade.

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The student report gives much more detail about how a child fared in each subsection of material. Besides giving a student’s reading score, for example, it will show how many questions the child answered correctly in the vocabulary and reading comprehension portions of the reading test.

Because it gives more information, the student report can be confusing. But parents can find national percentiles in the column marked “National NCE, or Normal Curve Equivalent.” And if you receive a home report and want more detailed information, you can ask your district for a student report.

Once you have seen how your child fared on the tests, what comes next? How important is it and what should you do if you see some apparent weak spots?

Educators stress that exam scores are just one measure of a child’s ability and should not be considered the sole gauge of achievement.

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“Standardized tests [are] one piece of a bigger puzzle that helps define how kids are doing,” Purrington said.

And they are not always the most accurate. As an example, low scores in two areas of the test, mathematics problem-solving and reading comprehension, may not mean that a child cannot grasp the concepts being taught. It could mean that the student is a slow reader who correctly answered every question there was time for, but couldn’t reach them all.

“It would appear that they’re not as proficient, but in reality, they’re not as fast,” Purrington said.

Another reason for children’s low test scores may be that they’re being graded on material they haven’t learned yet. Because this is the first year the test is being given, educators had feared that grade-level curriculum would not match what was being tested.

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Unfortunately, the scores are arriving just as most schools have taken a summer break. This prevents some parents and students from receiving immediate feedback from school administrators, said Mike Delaney, the testing analyst for the 32,000-student Saddleback Unified School District in Mission Viejo.

Teachers and other school officials will be examining scores to find the “inconsistencies,” such as students with mediocre grades who scored high on the test.

“I wish we had the opportunity to address that more immediately,” Delaney said.

School officials in Laguna Beach are hoping parents are still interested in the standardized test results in September, when principals and other administrators will hold an informational meeting about the Stanford 9.

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Parents should always remember, Delaney said, that grades, which measure participation, homework and other factors in addition to tests, are a better gauge of achievement than a standardized test. “This is a one-day, one-shot deal,” he said.

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Home Report

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Source: Harcourt Brace Educational Measurement


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