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San Diego Students Outscore Urban Average on National Exams

Aired 12/7/11 on KPBS News.

San Diego fourth and eighth graders outscored the average for students in 21 large urban school districts on national math and reading exams taken earlier this year.

— San Diego fourth and eighth graders performed above average compared with students in 21 large urban school districts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math and reading tests earlier this year.

Thirty-nine percent of San Diego Unified fourth graders and 32 percent of eighth graders who took a national math test scored as proficient or higher. Thirty-one percent of fourth graders and 27 percent of eighth graders hit the proficiency mark in reading.

Those rates are better than the average for students in the 21 large-city school districts included in Wednesday's report. But they lag far behind the percentage of local students who reach proficiency on state tests that gauge school performance under the federal No Child Left Behind Law.

Some critics say the disparity in state and national test scores may indicate that state tests used to meet No Child Left Behind requirements are less rigorous. But Stanford University Education Professor Edward Haertel said results from each set of exams can't be compared.

“The proficient standard on NAEP was originally intended to be aspirational," Haertel said. "It was supposed to represent an attainable but ambitious target, not something that would be a goal for 100 percent of students to reach by some specified deadline.”

A random sample of fourth and eighth graders across the country take the NAEP exams. Statewide scores on the exams were released last month. District level results are only reported for 21 large urban school districts.

San Diego students' average scores on the national math and reading tests were higher than the average for all California students. Local students' scores have increased on each of the national tests since district results were first reported in 2003. But the gap between white and black students’ scores on the math tests grew. The score gap also grew on the math tests and fourth grade reading test between students from higher- and lower-income households.

“That’s certainly an area that we need to address," said Ron Rode, who heads of the district's office of accountability. "We have an Association of African American Educators who have submitted a blueprint to the board. So we have an initiative, we’re really trying to address that. So, that will be a focused effort as we move forward this year.

The gap between white and Hispanic students’ scores did not change significantly.

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