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Topic: Los Angeles: Distress After Testing
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 13,489
Registered: 12/3/04
Los Angeles: Distress After Testing
Posted: May 17, 1999 9:00 PM
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[Note: Thanks to Carol Bohlin and others for drawing attention to this
article.]
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The Los Angeles Times, Home Edition, May 5, 1999, p. 1

School Officials Distressed After Stanford 9 Testing

By Martha Groves and Louis Sahagun
Times Education Writers

Abstract:

Eagle Rock Elementary School tried several known brain-enhancers--exercise,
Mozart, healthful breakfast fare--but even some of its brightest lights
struggled through parts of the Stanford 9 achievement test over the last
two weeks of April.

At schools across the Los Angeles Unified School District, teachers and
principals have been assessing the assessment test, based on their own
observations and the reactions of students. The consensus: Big chunks of
the test were out of sync with the curriculum. The math was surprisingly
hard. The vocabulary was daunting. The history portions tested knowledge of
centuries that weren't even part of the year's studies.

Teachers indicated that they were especially distressed by a new feature of
the Stanford 9: 70 additional questions, on top of the 380 core questions,
designed by the Stanford 9 publisher to test California students' grasp of
the state's rigorous new standards for reading and math. In Los Angeles
Unified, students in grades one through 11 take the Stanford 9.

Full Text:

Eagle Rock Elementary School tried several known brain-enhancers--exercise,
Mozart, healthful breakfast fare--but even some of its brightest lights
struggled through parts of the Stanford 9 achievement test over the last
two weeks of April.

"There were some questions that were just whoppers," said Nancy Scher, who
teaches fifth- and sixth-graders in the school's small magnet program for
highly gifted students.

Go ahead--you try measuring the volume of a sphere.

At schools across the Los Angeles Unified School District, teachers and
principals have been assessing the assessment test, based on their own
observations and the reactions of students. The consensus: Big chunks of
the test were out of sync with the curriculum. The math was surprisingly
hard. The vocabulary was daunting. The history portions tested knowledge of
centuries that weren't even part of the year's studies.

Many teachers and principals interviewed at several schools, including
highly achieving magnet programs, came away from the experience hoping for
the best but bracing for disappointment. The results will be in June 30,
when Stanford 9 scores become a very public report card for the area's
schools and, by extension, the individuals who work in them.

Teachers indicated that they were especially distressed by a new feature of
the Stanford 9: 70 additional questions, on top of the 380 core questions,
designed by the Stanford 9 publisher to test California students' grasp of
the state's rigorous new standards for reading and math. In Los Angeles
Unified, students in grades one through 11 take the Stanford 9.

Confusion reigns as to how much weight scores on this "augmentation"
portion will carry. Before the district comes down with a collective case
of heartburn, the California Department of Education has some soothing
words.

"I think we have to be very careful to remember that the {reading and math}
standards haven't even been distributed to teachers," said Leslie Fausset,
California's chief deputy superintendent over curriculum. "The frameworks
{for how to teach the new standards} will be published next year."

Even though the standards, adopted in late 1997, haven't yet made it to the
classroom, the tougher questions were included to establish a baseline for
future measurements.

The augmentation portion will be scored separately and will not be
expressed as a percentile, as is the student's score on the regular
Stanford 9, said Ina Roth, director of student testing and evaluation for
L.A. Unified. Nor will it be blended with the main score, which will be
used to rank schools and assess, among other things, a student's readiness
for advancement.

However, the augmentation scores can offer some perspective for educators
and parents, and Harcourt Educational Measurement, the test publisher,
plans to provide a district average for the augmentation at each grade
level.

Down the road, the augmentation scores could come into play as the state
seeks to hold administrators, teachers and students accountable for
academic performance, according to Doug Stone, a spokesman for the state
Department of Education. And in L.A. Unified, officials said those scores
next year will be one factor in determining whether a student should be
promoted to the next
grade.

From Venice to Granada Hills, many teachers bemoaned the difficulty of the
Stanford 9 and, particularly, the augmentation. At Venice High School,
history teacher Doreen Seelig said the 11th-grade test asked several
questions about aspects of government and economics that won't be taught
until 12th grade.

At Foshay Learning Center, Assistant Principal Cynthia Augustine picked up
the opinion from teachers that "there's a total mismatch." Seventh-grade
students study biology, yet that level's test dealt with physical science,
she said. On a positive note, teachers said pupils in the school, which
runs from kindergarten through 12th grade, appeared to handle the math
portion with aplomb.

Despite months of test preparation at 118th Street School, the format and
vocabulary were "intimidating and unfamiliar" for the elementary-level
students, said Principal Robert M. Caplan. Still, he said he expects
overall scores to be higher than last year's.

The length of the test--at least an hour daily for nine days--"wore on"
elementary students at 122nd Street School, said Jorge Briseno, testing
coordinator. "By the end, the quality of their work was deteriorating.
Their marks ran over the {multiple choice} bubbles."
-------------
Education writer Doug Smith contributed to this story.
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*
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)
E-mail: jbecker@siu.edu






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