UNDERSTANDING THE NUMBERS / READING THE TABLES
In California, 4.1 million public school students in grades 2 through 11 took the Stanford 9 standardized tests this year. All of them were tested in reading, writing and math. Students through grade 8 also took a spelling test and students in higher grades took exams in social studies and science.
On Monday, the Los Angeles Unified School District released a cross-section of scores for each of its schools. The state Education Department plans to release scores from all public schools later this summer, and The Times will publish additional school scores when they are available.
Readers who want to know how a school in the district is doing can use these scores as a gauge. But keep in mind that these are results for individual grades only--not the entire school. Scores vary some from grade to grade, even at the same school.
To find your school's scores:
* Look first for the grade level: "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. Schools are listed in alphabetical order by grade.
* The scores appear to the right of your school's name. The columns report testing data for reading and math. Use the guide at the top of each column of numbers to determine which category the score is in. Here's what each category shows:
C: Complete Scores. The average percentile for all the students at the school who took the test at the grade level.
F: Fluent. The average score only for those students who are fluent in English.
LE: Limited English. The average score only for those students classified as "limited English proficient."
% LEP: The percentage of the students taking the reading test who were classified as "limited English proficient."
Note: * (an asterisk) means the number of students tested was 10 or fewer.
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 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. Some schools' scores appear abnormally high, which may be because an unusually small number of children took the test.
Comparing the individual scores sent to your home with those of the school will help you gauge where your child ranks against classmates.
You also might want to compare your school's average with that of the entire Los Angeles Unified School District. These were the average percentile scores:
* Grade 4
Reading: 23rd percentile
Math: 27th percentile
* Grade 8
* Grade 10
The release of scores statewide has been held up by a court challenge seeking to exclude the scores of limited-English students from any calculations. A court hearing on the case is scheduled for this week.
Although the state has been ordered not to release such data, individual school districts remain free to release detailed school-by-school scores on their own--as the Los Angeles Unified School District has done.
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Los Angeles Unified