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L.A. Test Scores Rise for 1st Grade

Education: Stanford 9 improvement is downplayed by some, but Supt. Romer calls it a vindication of the district's efforts.

September 18, 2002|SOLOMON MOORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Standardized test scores for first-graders in the Los Angeles Unified School District rose this year, according to figures released Tuesday.

The California Department of Education does not require first-graders to take the Stanford 9 exam because studies have shown that test results for children under age 8 are unreliable.

Los Angeles school district Supt. Roy Romer, however, touted the rising Stanford 9 test scores as vindication of parents' efforts, better teacher training programs and the district's highly scripted Open Court reading program.

Sixty-one percent of first-graders in L.A. Unified scored at or above the national average in reading, up 4 percentage points from last year. In math, 52% were at or above the national average, up 5 percentage points; in language the figure was 49%, up 3 points; and in spelling the figure was 59%, up 4 points.

The Stanford 9 scores for higher grades were released in Los Angeles and statewide over the last month.

District officials said the test results for first grade were released separately because they were only recently available.

Few other California school districts report first-graders' scores on the Stanford 9 because many of those children lack the skills to take such exams, said Paul Warren, the state Education Department's deputy superintendent for accountability.

Brian Stecher, an education researcher at the Rand Corp. think tank in Santa Monica, said many children at that age don't even know how to manipulate a pencil.

Whatever the shortcomings of testing first-graders, Ronni Ephraim, the district's assistant superintendent for instruction, said the results will help educators determine where to focus resources and attention.

"We know that the most critical years for reading are kindergarten and first grade," she said. "So it is important that, early on, we see a picture of schools' strengths and weaknesses."

For example, she said 28 of the district's 445 elementary schools scored well below the national average and would be targeted for increased scrutiny.

Board of Education member David Tokofsky said the tests offer an opportunity to push for more preschool and kindergarten programs, but he downplayed the significance of the scores.

He likened the early testing to the Stanley Kaplan preparation courses for college entrance exams. "These scores don't give us any tremendous data," he said. "But it's good practice."

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