Malibu parents of students in second through eleventh grades received results of the Stanford-9 statewide achievement test on or about July 30. Neighboring Conejo Valley and Las Virgenes Unified School Districts mailed notifications June 12 and June 28, respectively.
In addition to scores from the standardized assessment given in April under the auspices of Harcourt Brace & Co., parents received a Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District report that evaluates reading/language arts and mathematics. The Report of Multiple Measures includes Stanford-9 scores as well as district-developed assessments and teacher grades.
In a letter from Juli Di Chiro, director of Standards and Assessment, parents are advised how to interpret the multiple measures report.
“We believe that teacher grades are the most important element in determining student progress towards grade level standards,” writes Di Chiro. “Grades are the only element in this scale that reflect the student performance over the entire school year. They also include a wide variety of classroom activities, assignments, projects and tests. Therefore, teacher grades receive a greater weight than the other elements.”
In fact, teacher grades carry three times the weight. On the reverse side of the letter is a point rubric from one to five that indicates whether a student exceeds, masters, meets, falls below, or is significantly below grade level standards. Four factors determine the score. In mathematics, for example, Stanford problem-solving, Stanford math procedures and the district grade-level assessment are all given equal weight. However, on the fourth factor of teacher grades, if the child is given a “4” (masters GLS), then it is worth 12 toward the point total. Some parents have difficulty doing the math.
Although parents acknowledge that the Stanford-9 is only one indicator of a child’s progress, they do see it as a barometer. Many Cabrillo families were relieved to see Malibu results published July 22 in the Surfside News. With good reason. Cabrillo students significantly improved their spring 1998 performance.”Of course Cabrillo parents were upset last year,” says Cabrillo PTA co-president Tracy Murgatroyd. “But once explanations were given and they found out why scores were low, they calmed down.”
The “why” to which Murgatroyd refers is a lack of preparation. Unlike Webster and Point Dume Marine Science, Cabrillo students took the test cold. This year, children were given preparatory packets before the two-week spring break. “[Principal] Pat Cairns started preparing them from day one,” she says. “Mrs. Cairns’ expectations are high, so automatically the school will tend to achieve more.”
A question unable to be answered at press time affects all three Malibu public elementary schools. Third-graders at each campus scored considerably lower than second-, fourth- and fifth-graders in areas of reading vocabulary, reading comprehension and spelling. One thought is that decreased emphasis on phonics impeded these youngsters in kindergarten through second grades. Experts say that some children who were taught the whole-language approach still may be recovering from the experiment.
District officials, away this week on holiday, were unavailable for comment. Individual school offices re-open mid-August.