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Data, Tailored Instruction Credited for Higher Test Scores

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Aired 8/19/09

San Diego Unified School District officials say more sophisticated data analysis was critical in helping students do better on state standardized tests.

— San Diego Unified School District officials say more sophisticated data analysis was critical in helping students do better on state standardized tests.

San Diego Unified School Superintendent Terry Grier praises teachers and students for making big gains on state tests scores.
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Above: San Diego Unified School Superintendent Terry Grier praises teachers and students for making big gains on state tests scores.

The latest state standardized test scores show 52 percent of San Diego Unified students scored "proficient" or "advanced" in English. That's up 5 percent from last year.

School Superintendent Terry Grier acknowledges that still leaves a lot of kids who are struggling in English, but he says progress is being made.

“Eight years from now, you won't be talking to us about 50 percent of kids," Grier said at a news conference. "You're going to say, 'Gee whiz Terry, now what are you going to do with that other 20 percent? Or what are you going to be doing with that other 15 percent? And I'll be sitting here saying to you, you know that's not acceptable.”

Math and science scores also showed gains. About 45 percent of students scored well in math and almost 50 percent did well in science.

Educators credit Grier's focus on data for the overall improvements. Students are taking district benchmark tests several times a year to prepare for the state test. A new data analysis system allows principals and teachers to tailor their instruction to the numbers.

Patricia Ladd is principal of Correia Middle School, a campus that not only posted gains but also narrowed its achievement gap. Ladd says teachers were able to pinpoint problems before it was too late.

“When people start experiencing a little taste of success, everyone wants to be on a winning team,” Ladd said. “So it just built and pretty soon we’re having friendly competitions between classrooms. It became a norm or buzz that was talked about.”

While most San Diego Unified students are improving, black and Latino students continue to lag behind their white and Asian counterparts in the district and across California. State Schools Superintendent Jack O'Connell, who visited Correia Middle School, has vowed yet again to make closing the gap his priority.

“We need to make sure that we look and learn from schools like this one in terms of how they are closing the achievement gap, and then we need to share this information with schools with a similar demographic," O’Connell said.

Even so, O'Connell says he's pleased and encouraged California public school students continue to show gains. He cautioned next year’s test scores may not look so good because of state cuts to education.

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