Image: Mostly TrueStatement: “Over this period of chaos and instability at the top, we’ve seen math and literacy scores go up by nearly 25 percent, while science scores have gone up nearly 100 percent,” school board President Richard Barrera said March 24 in his State of the District speech, referring to San Diego Unified’s past five years of superintendent turnover.

Determination: Mostly True

Analysis: Barrera arrived at those statistics by measuring the percent change between the test scores of San Diego Unified students in 2005 and 2009.

In 2005, 42 percent of students met the state’s testing goals in English. In 2009, the rate increased to 52 percent of students. That’s a 25 percent increase. (It’s worth noting that percent change is a measurement of relative change, or how much one number compares in size to another. You can’t just subtract the numbers.)

About 37 percent of students met the state’s standards for math in 2005 and 44 percent in 2009. The percent increase between those scores was 21 percent, close to the range Barrera specified.

Barrera’s argument runs into a little trouble after that. His science scores came from end-of-course exams, which are for high school biology, physics and chemistry. Those changed from 15.3 percent of students meeting state standards to 29.8 percent, a 95 percent increase.

But those high school tests aren’t what most teachers would point to first for “science scores.” They use science tests for elementary and middle schoolers. The actual test changed in 2006, so we’ll compare that year to 2009. The rate of passing students changed in that period from 26 percent to 48 percent — an 83 percent increase.

So Barrera got the English and math calculations correct, but it would be an exaggeration to call an 83 percent increase nearly 100 percent for science.

What Barrera said is substantially true, but the fine print on the science scores is long enough that we’re knocking this down to Mostly True. The good news is that it’s definitely true that test scores went up.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

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Summer Polacek was formerly the Development Manager at Voice of San Diego.

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