Elementary school students earned the highest gains in reading and math on statewide standardized tests while those in upper grades posted little, if any, improvement, according to preliminary review of several local districts.
After weeks of delay, the California Department of Education on Thursday released the highly anticipated Stanford 9 test results on the Internet.
The gains in elementary grades make sense, administrators said, because that's where the primary push has been, with districts reducing classroom size, offering more academic intervention programs, teaching parents how to read to their children and, perhaps most important, increasing reading efforts.
About 4.2 million children in grades 2 through 11 took the Stanford 9 test this spring.
Scores represent the national percentile ranks for each grade, with a score of 50 being average.
The Times reviewed the overall scores for the Las Virgenes, Los Angeles, Burbank, William S. Hart (in Santa Clarita) and Saugus school districts. That review showed the largest gains at the elementary levels.
Second-graders in the Las Virgenes School District, for example, jumped five percentile points in reading and 14 points in math compared with last spring. They landed in the 66th and 71st percentiles in reading and math, respectively.
"We're pleased with our results," Supt. John Fitzpatrick said recently, after reviewing scores for the district, which serves areas from Westlake Village to Calabasas.
Burbank Unified third-graders scored eight percentile points higher in reading than last year, but scores for 10th-graders remained about the same.
Scores for students in the smaller suburban districts were generally higher than those for students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which includes most public schools in the San Fernando Valley.
LAUSD students this year improved in reading and math, but largely were still ranked in the bottom third nationally.
But despite improvements, administrators in several districts said they're skeptical of the results.
Already frustrated after a three-week delay caused by a statewide misclassification of about 300,000 limited-English students, many principals on Thursday said they had not yet received hard copies of Stanford 9 test results for individual schools and were having difficulty accessing them on the Internet.
Those who got beyond the jammed Web site complained that the data were hard to analyze.
The state is withholding individual school results from the Glendale Unified School District indefinitely because Harcourt Educational Measurement, the private company that administered the test, miscalculated scores from year-round students.
Although preliminary results for the 30,000-student Glendale district showed significant improvements in reading in elementary grades, district Supt. Jim Brown said he's frustrated and fears more testing inaccuracies.
"I don't have a high degree of confidence [in Harcourt Educational Measurement]," he said. "They've made some major mistakes."
LAUSD officials sympathized with principals who had trouble accessing their school's results, and promised to provide a detailed analysis of test scores in a few days.
"I do not have [access to] the Web in this office," Ina Roth, director of student testing and evaluation for LAUSD, said late Thursday afternoon. "I have not received a paper copy of school by school results."
Los Angeles Board of Education member Julie Korenstein said she was eager to learn full results for each school in the Valley and to see a detailed analysis of trends.
"I'm totally anxious," said Korenstein, whose district includes much of the Valley. "But all we have is a general idea. We know LAUSD went up between 2% to 5%, depending on which grade level. Obviously, my hope is, if LAUSD went up, the San Fernando Valley usually does better."
Korenstein said she believes after-school intervention programs and summer school reading programs will boost future scores. "My hope is we will do even better next year because those programs will have been in place for a year," she said.
Times staff writers Hilary E. MacGregor and David Colker contributed to this story.