In California, almost 4.2 million public school students in grades 2 through 11 took the Stanford 9 standardized tests this spring, for the second year in a row. All of them were tested in reading, math and writing. Students through grade 8 also took a spelling test, and students in higher grades took exams in science and history / social science.
On Thursday, the state Department of Education released scores for each school. The Times today presents scores from districts in Ventura County for all grades tested.
Readers who want to know how a school in Ventura County is doing can use this cross-section of scores as a gauge. But keep in mind that these are results for individual grades only, not the entire school. Scores vary from grade to grade--and from classroom to classroom--even at the same school.
Results for all grades, schools and districts in all categories will be available on the Internet at a state Web site at http://www.cde.ca.gov.
To find your district's scores:
* Look first for the grade level: for example, "Grade 4" for elementary school, "Grade 8" for middle school or "Grade 10" for high school.
* Then, search down the column to find your school district.
* The scores appear to the right of your district's name. The columns report 1998 and 1999 testing data in, for example, the "Reading" and "Math" categories. Use the guide at the top of each column of numbers to determine which category the score is in.
For each test, the chart shows the national percentile rank achieved by students in each school, in both years. (See below: "How to Interpret the Percentile Rank.")
(Note: State officials warn that strict comparisons of a school's 1998 and 1999 scores may be misleading. One reason is that Proposition 227 has brought major changes in instruction for students not fluent in English, and the Stanford 9 test is designed to measure achievement by students who are fluent.)
* HOW TO INTERPRET THE PERCENTILE RANK
Even among experts, there is no one view on what a percentile rank tells about school performance. But a rank of 50 means that, taken together, the school's students were right at the national average when measured against a sample of their peers across the country--even though some students at the school may be doing quite well and others poorly.
A percentile rank of 25 or less suggests that many of the students are doing poorly when measured against the national sample. A rank of 75 or above shows that a high percentage of students are doing well. Scores for grades or schools in which few children were tested may appear abnormally high or low, and should be interpreted cautiously.
Comparing the individual scores sent to your home with those of the school will help you gauge where your child ranks against classmates.
Main stories, A1, B1.