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Mixed results

Some previous Stanford 9 gains eroded

(Published August 6, 1999)


Staff Writer

Recently released 1999 Stanford 9 test scores show D.C. Public Schools student performance declined modestly in some grades from last yearís levels, contradicting the rosy picture that Superinten-dent Arlene Ackerman has painted in recent weeks.

"The scores donít look that good," said attorney Mary Levy, a consultant for the advocacy group Parents United. "Itís an entirely mixed picture."

In 1999, average reading scores for DCPS students fell slightly in grades 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 11 and rose slightly in grades 2, 4, 7, and 9.

In math, average scores rose in grades 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10 and 11, and fell in grades 1, 3, 6 and 8.

Ackerman hailed the scores as a sign of the school systemís improving health. She admitted that the gains were not as large as the previous year, but pointed out that even with some declines, overall scores still did not fall back to 1997 levels.

With the exception of sixth grade math, scores were below the national average in every grade. The lowest scores were seen on the 10th grade reading tests, which were in the 37th percentile nationally.

Administration officials did not release actual scores. Instead, bar graphs represented the percentage of students scoring in each of four categories: below basic, basic, proficient and advanced. The actual percentages were not given and could only be approximated by examining the graphs. DCPS officials also did not provide information about what "basic" "below basic" and "proficient" mean.

School-by-school breakdowns are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

Following groups of students from year to year also shows mixed results.

Fourth graders, who as a group scored in the 38th percentile in 1997, jumped to the 48th percentile as sixth graders in 1999, according to Levyís analysis.

But first graders, who as a group scored in the 49th percentile in reading in 1997, fell to the 44th percentile by the time they reached third grade in 1999. First graders, who as a group scored in the 51st percentile last year in math, fell to the 45th percentile as second graders this year.

"Iím rather bothered that kids are losing ground in the early grades," Levy said.

Test results also suggest that only about 26 percent of students who took the test are solidly prepared to advance to the next grade in reading. Only about 21 percent of test takers appeared fully ready for the next grade level in math. These students scored in the "proficient" or "advanced" range, defined by test maker Harcourt Brace as showing "solid academic performance, student is prepared for next grade."

The remaining students ó those who scored in the "basic" or "below basic" range Ė showed, at best, only partial mastery of fundamental skills, according to Harcourt Brace.

The percentage of students scoring in the lowest category in reading rose in grades 1, 6, 10 and 11. The percentage stayed the same in grade 8 and fell slightly in grades 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9.

In math, the percentage of students scoring in the lowest category rose in grades 1 and 6, stayed the same in grade 7, and fell in grades 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, and 11.

The percentage of students scoring in the top three categories in reading rose one or two points in grades 2,3,4, 5, 7 and 9. That number fell by one or two percentage points in grades 1,6,8, 10 and 11.

In math, the percentage of students scoring in the top three categories rose one percentage point in grades 3, 8, and 11, and four or five percentage points in grades 4, 5, 9 and 10. Scores fell in grades 1 and 6 and remained steady in grades 2 and 7.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator