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Palo Alto STAR test results above average

Original post made on Aug 19, 2009

Palo Alto students score above state levels of proficiency in math and English-language arts tests and show general increases over last year's district-wideresults, according to Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) test results released this week.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 19, 2009, 5:53 PM

Comments (75)

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Posted by Mom
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 19, 2009 at 7:35 pm

When do we get our child's individual results?


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2009 at 9:31 pm

When they send it. Usually around now.


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Posted by Say What???
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 20, 2009 at 7:25 am

All we can say that the scores are above average.

WE SPEND TWICE THE AMOUNT OF MONEY PER CHILD COMPARED TO AN AVERAGE CALIFORNIA STUDENT !!!!!


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Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 20, 2009 at 8:46 am

So your implication is that we should get scores twice the average Californian student?? The story says that "..the percentage of students scoring at proficient and above for every school in the district consistently stands well above state percentages." Maybe you should think before responding with such a comment.


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Posted by Just the Facts
a resident of University South
on Aug 20, 2009 at 8:47 am

How about "way above average".
Percent of students at proficient and advanced:
English Language Arts
PAUSD grade 2 = 83%, State = 53%
PAUSD grade 3 = 78%, State = 44%
PAUSD grade 4 = 89%, State = 61%
PAUSD grade 5 = 88%, State = 54%
Mathematics
PAUSD grade 2 = 88%, State = 63%
PAUSD grade 3 = 84%, State = 64%
PAUSD grade 4 = 87%, State = 66%
PAUSD grade 5 = 87%, State = 57%
Even more impressive are the percent of students in Advanced.


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Posted by Billy
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 20, 2009 at 10:06 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff]


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Posted by Trukadero
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 20, 2009 at 10:45 am

I may be in the minority, but I'd like to have a measure of the creativity and emotional intelligence of our students. These score confirm what we all know already, that Palo Alto is above average in California education. But with due respect to the teachers and administrators, is that good enough?


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Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 20, 2009 at 1:05 pm

A typical Palo Alto response to kids' overall high achievement: Skelly's "There's still room for improvement." I wish Skelly and/or the Weekly would make clear that the Star test isn't so much about the kids' test performance as it is a reflection of how and what they're being taught, and how effectively.

I have a modest suggestion about the largest point loss, the 10th grade English. More choice of individual reading material can make a huge difference in engagement and understanding of literature, especially in the early teen years, as well as creative approaches to understanding and writing. Any chance of that in our uber-programmed learning process here in PA? Sadly, probably not.


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Posted by Ada
a resident of Monroe Park
on Aug 20, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Why is Ohlone's results sinked so low this year? In prior years they were way above 900 and this year plunged to 874. Is anyone looking into the reasons why or they ignore the Star test results altogether? Even if teh school does not believe in Star tests, shouldn't they be worried about such a significant drop?


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Posted by Carlos
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 20, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Just to put these results in perspective, would anyone know how this compares to other highly regarded districts in the country? I'm thinking of some of those neighborhoods around Chicago and Boston that we always read about on national surveys. They don't have STARS, but there might be another yardstick to make somewhat reasonable comparisons.


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Posted by Test Well
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 20, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Ohlone doesn't care about test scores.

Hoover, usually the highest scores, tests kids each week so they get used to testing.

Academic success is all about testing. PAUSD should emphasize test-taking skills to help the children with their academic success. Learning and understanding the material isn't enough. They need to be able to perform fast and well under timed situations.

For those who believe "it's what they learn that matters," tell the university admissions office that your child is knowledgeable but the low GPA and SAT scores don't reflect their real potential because they don't do well on exams. Won't fly.


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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 20, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Let's throw a party for PA students!!!


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Posted by Elena
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 20, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Ada, you are mixing up API scores and STAR scores, though both are trending down for Ohlone y-o-y. STAR tests for Ohlone were pretty low for 2nd graders across the board this year, not sure why, but regardless of whether the school focuses on tests or not, it is a deviation and it makes sense to look into it.


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Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 20, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Actually, Test Well, kids can have very high test scores and low grades and low performance in some or most classes. Ask anyone with a child with a learning disability. The fact is, once you're in HS and college, it doesn't matter how well you take standardized tests, it's the performance in class, on assignments, on research and essays that make for success. That doesn't even touch on the difference between success in college and in life. There's not a simple correlation.


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Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 20, 2009 at 2:53 pm

I just got my children's STAR test scores and I've never seen such weird highs and lows and discrepancies from past performance and classes. Anyone else see such things? I'm wondering whether it's just my kids or a problem with scoring computers.


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Posted by Test well
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 20, 2009 at 3:46 pm

A Palo Alto Parent:

"it doesn't matter how well you take standardized tests" - true, but must do well on exams in each class (can't expect a high grade if student does well on everything in class but then gets "C" on all the exams). Plus, most universities do look at SAT scores.


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Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 20, 2009 at 4:10 pm

The headline may as well say "the higher the atmosphere the lower the air pressure!".

Does anyone seriously doubt that if you had two maps of CA--one showing relative income levels and the other showing START test results---that they wouldn't line up?

I heard Malcolm Caldwell (author of "Outliers" and other books) being interviewed. He explained how if Abraham Lincoln were to today take an IQ test he'd do miserable. But after a few generations of people "adjusted" to taking tests, then tests would improve. Not that they'd necessarily go on to suppress the slaveholders, write the Gettysburg Address, etc.

And then we have the ridiculous spectacle of Palo Altans desperately comparing our schools. OF COURSE Ohlone doesn't do as well--they don't teach to the test. The nervous parents just send their kids to that SCORE place around the corner (probably more bang for the buck anyway).


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Posted by if only
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 20, 2009 at 4:39 pm

"OF COURSE Ohlone doesn't do as well--they don't teach to the test. "

Doesn't Ohlone teach the same curriculum as the rest of the elementary schools?


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 20, 2009 at 6:15 pm

STAR results were also all over the place in our house.

My high schooler tells me that they don't mean anything, nobody cares about them, and nobody puts in any effort. It showed.

My middle schooler agrees, but since we had some excellent scores and some terrible scores (the civil war) I was told that they never studied the Civil War until after STAR testing.

My experience tells me that the kids put in the required amount of effort and concern in elementary school, but as they progress through the grades, they feel the tests are a waste of time and consider them nothing more than amusing.


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Posted by Jordan Parent
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 20, 2009 at 6:37 pm

I have received a very consistent STAR test report in our place. Thanks for the efforts of the teachers and staffs here on California street. They have done an excellent job with the new principal and his team!!! All public tests and reports are very very important for being a Palo Altan.


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Posted by Doesn;'t justify suicides
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 20, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Or all the other lousy results of the students being overburdened.


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Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 20, 2009 at 7:16 pm

It's one thing to teach the same curriculum...

It's another thing to target certain students and, ahem, suggest that it might look bad on their record to have the less than stellar expected results, spend class time teaching the curriculum in such a way that the STAR test is the goal, not necessarily learning or appreciating the material, etc.

One of my kids let loose on a written assignment and went on about how it was a (BLANKETY BLANK) waste of his time, that it was a test more about Real Estate values than education (poor kid must have overheard me). The school called in a panic! You would have thought that goons from The Matrix were about to descend on him. I was advised to retroactively back date a form to excuse him (which I did). The administrator also "mentioned" ---"and it will bring down all the scores!". I had thought this "concern" was based on a real concern as to some untoward effect on him in terms of discipline form some state body once they read his words. But no one ever talked to him from the school, nada, zip. All they wanted was his test (all of them---he wasted days of his time and no record of anything) thrown out.

The STAR test is just a way to further reward the affluent, punish those at a disadvantage, use the whole spin to privatize education, a first better fund privatized/Charter education for effect, then later pull the rug out and make it all little more than incarceration.


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Posted by Cindy
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 20, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Ohlone teaches the to the same standards as all PA schools, just a different approach and in a way that engages the students in a unique and valuable way, including learning life skills and the value of getting along, not just learning academics. Ohlone has no better or worse track record for kids going to college than any other school in PA.

As a student who always overachieved myself, learned what would be on tests, but didn't eventually retain the information or enjoy the teaching, I wish I had learned for the joy of learning rather than the pressure of achieving A's and doing well on tests.


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Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 21, 2009 at 12:26 am

In case I gave the wrong impression....

Ohlone was not the specific local elementary school I had in mind when I described some of the more (IMO) nefarious acts a local school(s) have done in order to attain a "Yertle the Turtle" position re: statewide STAR Test status. I have no bone to pick with Ohlone's approach. I may wonder at times if a bit of "test taking skills" might be more emphasized as that is one of society's imposed hurdles. But then I've also heard that this can easily be compensated via using one of the expensive off-school options like SCORE---perhaps then keeping the school experience from becoming contaminated with "Testomania".

Cindy what you have to realized is that many readers/parents will read your words and think "yeah but you're probably a rich CEO and/or supremely successful academic (and PA is the place for the "and"), but had you experienced 'the joy of learning' you'd instead by now experiencing the joy of working at Jiffy Lube".


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Posted by Another parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2009 at 10:46 am

Yesterday we received the STAR test results for our two children. I was immediately grateful for the incredible dedication and energy of all of their teachers, who for all these years have worked very hard, shown so much enthusiasm for all subjects, and for the most part have also treated the students with dignity, consideration and respect. We take responsibility for imparting many values to our sons, and when we see how much they have learned, are in awe of the talents and persistence of these teachers. Thank you! Yes, STAR testing is limited in what it measures. Yes, too much emphasis is often placed on 'book larnin', however, one can only ask so much of a teacher who is with a student for only hours per week. Most of what they learn comes from the parents and if there are gaps, moral, cultural, spiritual, it is down to the parents. My hat is off to the teachers today!


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Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 21, 2009 at 10:46 am

The way Ohlone teaches is generally more useful and meaningful to kids in the moment and in the long run because they don't teach to a multiple choice test. The measure for success in and out of the classroom has to do with original thought, clear thinking and rigid analysis. Tests can show a general ability to think in a certain way, but it's only a very preliminary guideline. No professor at Stanford or Yale give an exam with multiple choice answers.


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Posted by Another parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2009 at 10:58 am

Furthermore: the SCORE around the corner from Ohlone is not there any more. Although my children do well in school and on tests, we are not affluent Palo Altans. We cut back on our careers in order to be more available as parents. Also, we only consider these tests to be one factor among many we use to keep track of how our kids are doing. Right now they are playing an unbelievably inane computer game and laughing up a storm, which I consider to be just as important a sign of future success.


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Posted by Another Ohlone Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2009 at 11:00 am

As the parent of a middle schooler who went to Ohlone when she was younger, I have absolutely no worries about Ohlone's Star Test results. Zero, Zero, Zero.

She didn't have great Star test results when she was there (although they were fine, they weren't the kind of thing you brag about).

But now that she has been in middle school a couple of years she absolutely crushed the Star test like the fool test that it is--well, well over advanced in both divisions.

Funny thing is, I believe she actually learned more and got more out of Ohlone than she is out of her middle school. The teachers, curriculum and approach were just vastly better.

I hope Ohlone doesn't worry one bit about the Star test results. Sure, there is always room for improvement, but the Star test is not it.

AOP


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Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 21, 2009 at 11:18 am

Something interesting I notice on my kids' STAR tests is that the more questions per catagory, usually the higher the score. The difference between 3 questions (lowest percentile) and 10 questions can be about an 80 percentile difference. Also, as someone pointed out above, the parts of science, etc. that had not yet been taught were predictably lower than what had just been taught.


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Posted by KIra
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 21, 2009 at 11:28 am

I don't worry bout Ohlone' s scores in language arts, but I do about sharply declining math scores. Math is a subject that fits testing perfectly, unlike language arts where there is more variability.
Ability to solve a math equation in a test environment should not depend on what method a child was taught - Ohlone or Hoover, a child needs to be able to solve that math equation, period.


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Posted by Cindy
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 21, 2009 at 11:58 am

To people who may read my post and think I'm a successful CEO and/or academic - I'm not, I'm currently experiencing the "joy of being unemployed".


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Posted by Sue
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2009 at 12:34 pm

What I found interesting in reading this forum is, whenever an education related topic comes up, it often time turns into a discussion focusing on Ohlone. Don't we have 12 elementary schools and 3 middle schools and 2 high schools? Would other parents please speak up? Or am I in the the wrong forum?


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Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 21, 2009 at 3:34 pm

I am not opposed to relevant testing per se. But this whole over the top economic and educational bludgeon use of the STAR Test accomplishes little else than rewarding the affluent and punishing those less advantaged.

Another Parent can rightfully be proud and happy with her children, their scores, their teachers, etc. But that isn't the use.

This will further put more pressure on the most accomplished and gifted teachers fearing to tread into schools where top STAR test results could only be accomplished with tons of effort and resources. So they tend to follow the carrot and fear the stick.

Those schools doing less well are then punished en masse. Cries go out about failing schools and trying to revert to privatized charter schools. But a similar thing happened in healthcare a while back.

Years ago every test and procedure was reimbursed without question by the insurance companies. Finally, after years of greedy healthcare providers and hospitals killing the goose that laid the golden egg, the government and insurance companies changed the rules such that "DRG's" (Diagnostic Related Groups") formed the basis of reimbursement. Pneumonia or CHF admission would yield X amount of reimburement. If the MD ordered a chest X ray each day, and two on Sunday, that was all fine and good, but no more money would be forthcoming. This caused a big quest then for Evidence Based Medicine to batten things down. A reverse occurred. But a funny thing then happened. The reimbursement powers TEMPORARILY changed the scheme such that patients in Skilled Nursing Facilities or in "Rehab" facilities (where RN staffing ratios were less) would revert to the old more lucrative form of reimbursement. Suddenly massive pressure was on to change the standard of care such that sicker patients could be then placed in places with less nursing staff and the MD's didn't even have to see everyday.

Then, after the standard of care deteriorated (and in some cases was more appropriate) they reimbursement for SNF's and Rehab was also changed to DRG.

Bait and Switch.

Sort of how START Testing and (initially) "successful" Charter privatized schools are being spun. Once the public education system is decimated then the affluent can use their vouchers for private education, the poor will have the Charter Schools degenerate into low bidder take all "education" which is little more than daycare incarceration.

And we in Palo Alto are somehow proud about any of this nonsense?


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Posted by Another parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2009 at 5:15 pm

I do think we can be proud in Palo Alto. Although our state opted out of funding our education system via prop 13, Palo Alto's voters have voted again and again to fund our schools. This, along with countless dollars and hours donated by parents in this community, have enabled Palo Alto to continue providing a quality education for not only our local students, but those who come here from other areas to take advantage of this opportunity. I am not responsible for educating the entire state. Having said that, I would support a repeal of prop 13 and a state wide effort to bring all the public schools in California up to the level of excellence that all students deserve. As a parent who sacrificed a great deal to be here, and who volunteers, donates and works to support every measure that helps our schools, yes, I am proud of the PAUSD. Would I prefer that all children everywhere have the same opportunity? You bet. Would I deprive my children of a good education simply to even the field? No. Do I wish every parent put forth the effort to provide great opportunities for their children before and after having them? Yes.


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Posted by a common myth
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 21, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Another Parent -

The fact is that California is spending more per student now, in inflation adjusted dollars, than it did before Prop 13. It is simply false that Prop 13 caused reduced spending, because spending increased.

You may not think Prop 13 is fair, or may dislike it for other reasons, and you may believe California should be spending more on education, but Prop 13 did not result in a reduction in spending for education.

I personally believe that for what the schools are trying to do, which includes compensating for uneducated parents and dysfunctional families, along with dealing with English language issues, they don't have enough money.


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Posted by Another parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:11 am

To a Common Myth, Dollars spent per child is a meaningless way to measure what is being invested in education. As you point out, the job of educating students in this state has changed since prop 13 was enacted and therefore to try and educate children with the same resources doesn't make sense. I do agree that our schools are expected to not only teach the basics but overcome all those other issues as well, which, as I mentioned, are actually the responsibility of the parents. Having children is a huge undertaking and passing on the difficult parts to the school system is wrong however common it has become. But this our current reality and California schools are not funded adequately for the job. Prop 13 does create a host of problems while mitigating the problems of a few. We can and should do better.


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Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 22, 2009 at 12:39 am

There is a model we could perhaps attempt to emulate.

see

Web Link

Excerpt...

The record of Cuban education is outstanding: universal school enrollment and attendance; nearly
universal adult literacy; proportional female representation at all levels, including higher education; a
strong scientific training base, particularly in chemistry and medicine; consistent pedagogical quality
across widely dispersed classrooms; equality of basic educational opportunity, even in impoverished
areas, both rural and urban. In a recent regional study of Latin America and the Caribbean, Cuba
ranked first in math and science achievement,' at all grade levels, among both males and females. In
many ways, Cuba's schools are the equals of schools in OECD countries, despite the fact that Cuba's
economy is that of a developing country.
What has allowed Cuba's education system to perform so well, even under the severe resource constraints
of the past decade, is the continuity in its education strategies, sustained high levels of
investments in education, and a comprehensive and carefully structured system, characterized by:
* Quality basic education and universal access to primary and secondary school;
* Comprehensive early childhood education and student health programs (established as
part of the commitment to basic education);
- Complementary educational programs for those outside school-literacy, adult and nonformal
education (again as part of the basic education commitment);
* Mechanisms to foster community participation in management of schools;
* Great attention to teachers (extensive pre- and in-service training, high status and morale,
incentives, transparent system of accountability, strategies for developing a culture of
professionalism, rewards for innovation);
* Low-cost instructional materials of high quality;
* Teacher and student initiative in adapting the national curriculum and developing instruc
tional materials locally;
* Carefully structured competition that enhances the system rather than the individual;
* Explicit strategies to reach rural students and students with special needs;
1 UNESCO/


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Posted by The Game
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 22, 2009 at 1:53 am

One recurring issue (especially among lower grades) is the fact that everyone is piled together. You just can't learn that way.

Some kids get it faster than others, while others need more time. Teaching them all together results in unrealized potential and stragglers. Putting them all in the same class to "promote equality" while having the teacher teach kids in small groups separately can be effective, but is hard on the teacher. And as a kid, how would you feel if Mrs. Doe always took 3 special kids away to teach them differently? In elementary school, the ostensible act of favoritism, or even just plain old differences, can open up the can of worms that is bullying.

Another irritating thing about this system is the endless group projects assigned by teachers. When groups are free-choice, friends band together and people are left out. When groups are assigned, the mental caliber is never equal. The smart kids can teach the ones who don't get it yet, you say? Reality never works out the way you plan it. (communism, anyone?) The ones ahead of the game will just complete the whole project on their own. Meanwhile, the ones who are left out don't learn anything, and stay behind.

At least in the upper levels of high school, there are AP classes available, in which material isn't rehashed and rehashed, deep-fat-fry-rehashed, and topped with whipped cream and a cherry-red group project. Instead, new material can keep coming at a decent pace.

------------

Now, a thing about underperformers. Do you know why they're behind? They waste their time, that's why. In my experience, they're always the ones talking in class and not paying attention. They're always the ones whose phones go off during a test. They're always the ones cruising the town late at night, instead of going home to do their homework.

You may say that some kids are genuinely disadvantaged, but those kids are few and far between. And in my experience, those few kids are the ones that work the hardest, and actually perform the best in this system, where one can perform well by simply paying attention in class and doing homework.


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Posted by Hardy Har
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2009 at 8:44 am

A Noun Ea Mus,

"I had thought this "concern" was based on a real concern as to some untoward effect on him" Thanks, that gave me a good chuckle. If only the teachers were focused on the kids.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 22, 2009 at 10:26 pm

Ohlone's scores, in part, reflect the variety of teachers. The 2/3 cluster has some weak teachers in it, though the K/1 and 4/5 clusters are strong. To some extent, the 4/5 teachers spend time pulling up the performances of kids from the weaker classes.

Ohlone's administration has been distracted the last couple of years, to put it mildly, so firming up the teaching quality of the weaker teachers has not been a priority. The school administration needs to get back to its original mission instead of trying to be all things to all special interests.

If Ohlone never teaches to the test, then, yes, you can expect it to have lower average scores than test-oriented Hoover. Doesn't mean, however, that its average scores should be sinking as a result.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 23, 2009 at 10:12 am

As a former Ohlone parent, I am dismayed at the lower scores of the current 3rd graders. According to the 2009 STAR report, 23% of the 3rd graders are Basic or below in Language-Arts. 29% of 3rd graders are Basic or below in Math. Surely the 2/3 grade teachers at Ohlone can do better than that in teaching these critical skills.


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Posted by boardwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Strangely, this board seems to have devolved into picking on Ohlone. But Barron Park is, AGAIN, at the bottom of the list. This despite the fact that those in charge of their expensive ($50K this year, $25K last) program for narrowing the achievement gap told the Board this year that the program had been a raging success. Ahem. They lied. Any accountability? Or is the Board going to go along with the fiction because IN THEORY the program helps achievement gap kids?

The excuse used to be that there were so many achievement gap kids that they drove down the school scores. What's the excuse now? Hree's a retro idea: clean house over there, get the kids some real education, and please, for heaven's sake, stop throwing money at the problem without demanding accountability. It serves no one except those who want to experiment on those kids. Shame, shame, shame. This has gone on far too long.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 23, 2009 at 12:57 pm

To the Game from Gunn High Community - if your attitude is typical of the Gunn community, I can see why the students are so stressed.

In my experience, many of the "overachievers" have had extensive outside help, while you are right about some of the underperformers, many of the kids I have seen professionally are just not well served by our education system for a variety of reasons. There are many kids who pay attention, do their homework and still do not succeed. I've had clients who ask their teachers for help and are told that figuring it out themselves is part of the learning process, told that they are stupid or told to go ask another student.

To boardwatcher - I agree with your retro idea of cleaning house, but that can't happen - teachers have tenure. And unfortunately, the teachers who substantially contribute to student stress are usually the ones who should be part of a house cleaning.


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Posted by jackie
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 23, 2009 at 1:32 pm

My son took the start test for the first time and scored basic for english and below for math. He attends Addison. They told me that the results will not respresent his overall achievements. Regardless it concerns me. Reading some of the comments above, I feel that the results should be taken seriously. I hope the children are taught the material on the test and that they are prepared. Dr. Skelly's comment disturbs me more. He down plays the lower results, he should be more concerned with the low results instead of blowing air up our as...! Not all students score Advanced or proficient, it seems that these kids are what matters most...what about the rest of our kids that are struggling. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Stop telling our kids they need to be advanced or Proficient to succeed. I am sure my son will do well in life with his basic level.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 23, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Boardwatcher,

I think Ohlone's become a flashpoint ever since Susan Charles gave the go-ahead to Mandarin Immersion, which brought up a lot of the simmering resentment of the choice programs. Also, Ohlone does promote a particular educational philosophy, which is disliked by some.

But you make a good point about Barron Park--and I think a similar point *does* apply to Ohlone. We're seeing some weak teaching. At Ohlone (and I'm talking about Ohlone because that's the situation I know), teachers with weaker skills are a more serious issue simply because of the independence teachers at the school have. And the administration has been seriously distracted--with Mandarin Immersion and now with the proposed expansion into a mega-school. Weaker teachers and students are starting to fall between the cracks--something that's completely predictable if you look at *any* of the many studies on school size.

Many of the teachers at Ohlone are outstanding--the kids learn and they love to learn. There are some teachers who are weaker though and it's known in the Ohlone community that they're in the 2/3 cluster (not all 2/3 teachers by any means)and the scores reflect this.

I'd really like to see Ohlone (and the PAUSD) get back to its mission. And the incoming principal, unlike the outgoing one, can spend a little more time in the main-strand classrooms, instead of the MI ones.


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Posted by Aaron
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 23, 2009 at 2:05 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 23, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Jackie -

At the lower grades, the kids do not answer very many questions, so it is much easier statistically to get a lower score by missing a few questions (easy to do when you are 7 or 8 years old and perhaps nervous or distracted). I believe the test score sheet shows how many questions there were, missing 1 out of 2 would concern me much less than missing 15 out of 30.

Addison is a terrific school with a wonderful principal and great teachers. Star tests are only a tiny measurement of what your child has really learned. Take the time to meet with your child's teacher for this next year, if he is truly struggling, Addison has a great support system for their students.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 23, 2009 at 2:45 pm

So Aaron, are you saying, then, that MI is a program meant for Asian kids? Wow, that was one of the criticisms of the program. Guess you consider it valid.

Anyway, sorry, MI just doesn't have the numbers to pull your scenario off. One of the interesting things I noticed about the principal selection committee is that there wasn't a single MIer on it. And the job went to a teacher who'd been at Ohlone for decades and had helped start the Farm.

By the way, I never noticed that PA schools were doing poorly and were then somehow saved by an influx of Asian immigrants. From what I've seen, PAUSD has built a strong school system over the years which has, understandably, attracted families of all ethnicities who are interested in good schools.

But, hey, wouldn't it be wonderful then to build an MI charter in EPA and create a really good school there?


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Posted by Aaron
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 23, 2009 at 3:24 pm

OP,

As I have discussed with you in the past, I think the influx of MI parents, largely Asians, will ahve a very positive effect on Ohlone. The injection of the Confucian ethic will be a very beneficial thing for all students, including non-Asian students. The Asian parents will not give up, because that is contrary to the Confucian ethic. They have patience, and they will prevail.

In case you have not noticed, there is a big influx of Asians in Palo Alto. This will bring many positive influences to the city, including a big increase in acadmeic standards in Palo Alto. The touchy-feely era is over. Now is the time for performance, for all ethnicities.


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Posted by No Ostrich here !
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 23, 2009 at 4:30 pm

OP,

If you are familiar with the schools in the bay area you would have noticed that the ranking of best schools of the bay area now go to Mission in Fremont and Monta Vista in Cupertino. Mission in Fremont is dominated by Indians and Monta Vista is dominated by Chinese.

Gunn barely makes it as a good school, Paly is in day dreaming mode.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 23, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Aaron,

You are so easy to tweak. Thanks for admitting that you think MI is a program for Asian kids. And, again, there's no place for that kind of separatism in a public school system. Save it for Chinese school and private schools. Public schools are for ALL children.

I'm aware of the scores in Cupertino--as well as the emotional cost involved. Doesn't change my point--these were good schools before the influx of immigrants.

As for Confucianism--Indian-Americans outperform Chinese-Americans--so maybe we should focus on the Upanishads and the Koran. I'd say we could offer Hindi-Immersion, but the Indian-Americans I know come from families where everyone is comfortable with English and quite happy to speak it. (There is, of course, a strong vein of Indian and Indian emigre literature in English.)


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2009 at 11:10 pm

The Game,


"Another irritating thing about this system is the endless group projects assigned by teachers. When groups are free-choice, friends band together and people are left out. When groups are assigned, the mental caliber is never equal. The smart kids can teach the ones who don't get it yet, you say? Reality never works out the way you plan it. (communism, anyone?) The ones ahead of the game will just complete the whole project on their own. Meanwhile, the ones who are left out don't learn anything, and stay behind."

your comment really resonates with me

Group work can cause so much stress and distress when it's done ALL the time as it is in PAUSD, do teachers ever realize how much wasted energy goes into forcing kids into groups ALL the time? I get that it's good to know how to work together, but ALL of the time????

I'm beginning to think that making kids fend for themselves in groups ALL the time is mostly for teacher benefit.

Group work, I have also heard of audio books being used, what's next? the virtual teacher that dispenses orders from their home computer?





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Posted by reality check
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 12:53 am

PA's results for ELL and Economically Disadvantaged students arent really any better then those for many other local districts operating on a fraction of the per-student budget.

Given that and comments by Non E Mous (and other similar I've heard elsewhere), why is anyone excited? High income kids will score well on standardized tests anywhere. Does PAUSD educate kids, or just hit a bunch of easy pitches over the fence?


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:02 pm

reality check,

Of course they're educating kids--and, yes, it's probably a reasonably easy group to educate. So both should be getting credit.

That said, I don't think the district is particularly well-oriented toward educating poor kids and ELL kids. That's not been its focus and, frankly, there's not a large amount of incentive to do so. The district and the community tends to focus more on high achievers and providing opportunities for them.


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Posted by reality check
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Wow. So, the district is good at educating the low hanging fruit, but not 'those other kids'?

No incentive to educate those that need it the most? Not the focus? Thats truly frightening and sad, and not the mark of a high-quality district. Or community.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 24, 2009 at 5:32 pm

reality check,

No, more a choice of where and how to spend finite resources. I know one family that left Mountain View because their oldest kid was bright and the school had neither the time nor resources to teach him anywhere near his level. Perfectly bright kids often coast through mediocre schools only to find themselves behind kids who come from better school districts. No difference in the intelligence of the kids involved--a great deal of difference in the focus of the schools.


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Posted by Aaron
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 24, 2009 at 5:48 pm

"Thanks for admitting that you think MI is a program for Asian kids"

OP,

I have always thought that MI is driven by Asians for Asians. However, the Asians, in Palo Alto, are smart enough to open up the program to non-Asians. If you can find some statement from me to the contrary, please let me know.

My consistent point is that Asians should be celebrated for demanding standards. They can teach the rest of us non-Asians a good lesson. I had to learn it on my own, in a tough environment, but we are now blessed to have quite a few Asians to lead the way.

Why do you have a problem with that?


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Posted by reality check
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:20 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:45 pm

"Smart enough to open up the program to non-Asians"?

Are you for real? Are you that unfamiliar with basic anti-discrimination laws?

There was no opening up, because race-based exclusion's illegal.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by reality check
a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2009 at 10:01 am

OhlonePar-

As an Ohlone parent, you better than most should know that education is not a one-size-fits all solution. One high-performing kid wasnt a good fit for the MV schools, therefore the district is inferior? I know a handful of exceptionally gifted kids absolutely thriving in the MV schools. I also know of some former ELL kids there that are exceeding all expectations there. I know many, many PA families that send their kids to non-parochial private schools because their kids werent well served by PAUSD. Is that a condemnation of the district? I dont think so.

You say that PA schools serve high achieving kids well, but my unscientific look at my PA friends and associates shows a very high percentage with kids enrolled in intensive test prep programs, hardcore tutoring, kumon, etc. Are the schools failing these kids?

Garrison Keeler does not live in Palo Alto. Your cavalier attitude towards the kids in PA that need the schools the most is troubling.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 25, 2009 at 10:19 am

Reality check,

I'm not saying what I think should be done, I'm pointing out what the realities are. There's a limited budget--how do you set priorities. In Mountain View, where you have a large number of kids who need to learn English and be brought up to grade level, you *have* to put the money and time into that. I don't, in fact, disagree with that. I do think that's a priority.

Palo Alto has different funding and a different population. I don't think, in fact, that it's a great choice for all students.


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Posted by Jordanpal
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 25, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Reality check,
"Gunn and Palo Alto high schools ranked second and sixth in the state in SAT scores", Skelly said


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Posted by Aaron
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 25, 2009 at 12:26 pm

OP,

The Asians could have set up a private school, or a charter school. They, wisely in my view, decided to set up in a public school. They will be able to drive a larger agenda that way. I hope they succeed.


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Posted by Jordanpal
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 25, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Reality double check,
Paly is ahead of Mission S.J. high in last year state SAT result. The top one was in southern cal.


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Posted by reality check
a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2009 at 4:29 pm

@OhlonePar: fair enough, but I dont think a district should celebrate its "achievement" when it is unable to translate success with the easiest students to meeting the needs of those kids that need the public schools most. I know for a fact that the MV schools, for example, dont really brag nor get overly excited about the very high performance of their upper-income kids (on par w. PAUSD and Los Altos, last I looked), because they have not met their own targets for ELL kids in certain subject areas and grade levels.

@Jordonpal: Your point? Noone argues that PA test scores are stellar. The question is why, and why not more universally so.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 25, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Reality Check,

Was the district celebrating? Skelly said we could do better.

And I think we all know that the suicide issue kind of puts a damper on any celebrations about the wonderfulness of our school district right now.


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Posted by SDA
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 26, 2009 at 6:46 am

PA doesn't do a very good job of serving advanced kids. The PA mindset rewards hard work in math, especially hard work accomplished in outside tutoring. (English is just beside the point in this district.) PAUSD serves just one group: (relatively) wealthy kids of average ability who have been pushed by parents (often via tutoring) to excel.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 26, 2009 at 11:01 am

Can someone tell me how do we know what percentiles our children's scores are? I have the score and that they're in the middle of one of the tiers but that's all I can see. After trying to find that simple answer among the thousands of pages of reports produced on line by our education bureaucracy, I can't find what to me is a key bottom line metric for my children.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2009 at 11:56 am

Steve,

Why do you need that metric? What's it going to tell you? If your child is "below basic" does it matter whether she or he's at the 4th percentile or the 20th? Either way, she or he needs help. And if your child's advanced, is there a meaningful difference between 90th percentile and 99th?

I think what we did get--which is a breakdown of the test components is more useful. That tells you where the specific issues are.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 26, 2009 at 9:26 pm

To respond to Ohlonepar, I can see she's in the middle of advanced by the graph with scores of about 475 on a 150 to 600 scale. I have no idea if each of the 5 levels has 20% of students so in the middle of the top group is about 90th percentile. Alternatively 475 is 72% of the way between the bottom of 150 and the top of 600. Or are the scores non-linear unrelated to either of these two? I think there is a big difference if she's 90th vs. 72nd. I think it's nice to know where each school ranks but I don't think it's unusual to want to know where our children rank as well. Frankly if there wasn't so much grade inflation we could get a sense where the kids stand by their grades, but in middle school at least my impression is 1/3 to 1/2 the kids get straight A's so that doesn't tell us as much as these test scores should.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Steve,

What's the big difference? Is there a class or program with an admission that's determined by STAR scores? You're being told where your child ranks in terms of what's expected at that grade level.

It's not kid v. kid scoring system. So, in some classes and some schools, nearly all the kids will be proficient and advanced, at other schools none of them will be.

As I said earlier, you'll get more out of looking at the breakdown on the back and figuring what kind of questions your kid got wrong.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2009 at 11:26 am

Steve,

Although OhlonePar responded in her usual snotty and condescending manner, she is right that the information on the back of the STAR report should be helpful to you and may answer some of your concerns.

You can see your child's percent correct in the various English-Language Arts and Mathematics content areas on the back page. The percentage correct is also presented graphically (as a dot) on a horizontal scale. You can then compare that percentage to the line scale representing the range of scores of proficient students.

While this does not give you a specific percentile ranking of your student it can give you a basic idea of where she stands in these content areas. For example, perhaps there is a very large gap between the dot representing your daughter's percentage correct and the range of proficient scores for Algebra and Functions, but a much smaller gap for Measurement and Geometry.

While your daughter may be advanced in both areas as compared to the proficient students, this would point out a relative weakness in geometric skills vs. algebraic skills.

If you are still concerned about your daughter's overall ranking against her peers, you may want to call the school office directly to find out if they can give you that information. They must do some sort of ranking in order to determine which students are on the "honor roll". This isn't exactly what I think you were looking for (a translation of the STAR test result into a percentile rank against students statewide), however it may put your mind at ease as to your daughter's present performance level as compared to the other students in her grade at her school.


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Posted by midtown parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 27, 2009 at 11:55 am

I have been following the coments of someparents, here on forum. You are talking so much about test scores and how much better they are this year. However, some parents are still complaining about why some schools are still low. I felt so sick to my stomack that we still cannot get it. Our children are dying inpart for all the stress we parents, community, teachers and school admininstrators put them through and to get us good score, and we still not pleased with the results. I thinkk our children will stop having suicidal thoughts when we stop measuring thier achievement by looking at how good they did. Shame on all of us. The school administrators need to insert in our children's minds that community colleges are good and they should not be ashamed to go to them. Three years ago a tenager relative of mine tryied to cut her veins becaause she was not accepted in a college on the east. Luckily she was not successful and had a second change. At that point students were not aware of how easy is to dy by getting hit by the train. Now she is healing and is attending community college, but it took her a long time. She was fed that she had to go to good 4 year colleges. No one ever bhought community colleges or san Jose State to the college fairs. I hope we start making changes soon. I bet the children who died this past days contributed a lot to the good scores. My question is was it worth it. I would rather have thise children alive and bad scores.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 27, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Anonymous,

Just couldn't stand it, could you?

My response was colored by what midtown parent mentions--good enough (i.e. the child seems to be on track and learning) is never enough.

Which sends a hideous message to kids about learning--it's not enough to learn the subject--nope, what matters is that you're better than other kids.

And god forbid you're not in that top one percent.

I understand the mentality, but it amazes me that we can't take a deep breath and think about what message we send to our kids when we do this (and, yes, they pick it right up.) in light of what's happened here.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Steve,

Here is a link to a document detailing what information is reported on the 2009 Student Master List Summary—End-of-Course (CST and STS).

Web Link

Here are some quotes:

"This report summarizes student results for the CSTs, CMA, CAPA, and STS at the school, district, county, and state levels for each grade. It does not include any individual student information."

"For each of these CSTs, the following data are summarized:

By content area tested:
Number of students enrolled
Number and percent of students tested
Number and percent of valid scores
Number tested with scores
Mean percent correct
Mean scale score
Scale score standard deviation
Number and percent of students scoring at each CST performance level
The number of items for each reporting cluster and the mean percent correct"

"This report is a resource for evaluators, researchers, teachers, parents/guardians, community members, and administrators.
One copy is packaged for the school, and one for the school district.
This report is also produced for school districts, counties, and the state.
Note: The data on this report may be shared with parents/guardians, community members, and the media only if the data are for 11 or more students."

Apparently you can go to the school (or to the district office) and ask to see this report (as long as the data is for 11 or more students, which it will be). You can ask to find out the mean scale score, the scale score standard deviation and/or the number and percent of students scoring at each CST performance level for each of the tests your daughter took.

You can then use this information to translate your daughter's scale score of 475 into a percentage rank against her peers at the school, district and state levels.

Hope this helps.


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