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Statement: “Student achievement has dropped (in) the time he’s been on the school board, the past 20 years,” San Diego Unified school board candidate Scott Barnett said in a televised KUSI debate with incumbent John de Beck.

Determination: False

Analysis: De Beck was first elected to the school board in 1990, so comparing student achievement scores during his tenure would encompass the last 20 years.

Here’s the hitch: Over that time, the state tests that measure student achievement have changed, which means their results can’t be seamlessly compared.

The most common gauge of student achievement — the California state tests — show that San Diego Unified scores have increased from 677 to 766 on a 1,000-point-scale since 2002, when district-wide data became first available on the California Department of Education website.

San Diego Unified and other large urban school districts have also taken a national exam every two years since 2003. It shows local gains in math and little change in reading scores.

Ron Rode, who oversees research and evaluation in San Diego Unified, also suggested comparing SAT scores for San Diego students, but the school district doesn’t keep that data.

So where did Barnett get his data?

Barnett said a school consultant told him student achievement had declined over time. He declined to name the consultant, saying he didn’t want to embarrass the person. Barnett himself could find no evidence to back up the claim.

“While SDUSD has much progress to make on academic achievement, graduation rates, etc, my statement was incorrect,” Barnett wrote in an e-mail. “I have always prided myself on doing my homework and checking the facts myself. … But in this case relied on unsubstantiated statements, which I did not check out. I apologize for this and commend VOS(D) for keeping me on the straight and narrow.”

We couldn’t find any research to support Barnett’s original statement, but if you can muster something that points us in a more authoritative direction — true or false — please send it to us. Until then, we’re dubbing Barnett’s statement as false.

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

You can also e-mail new Fact Check suggestions to factcheck@voiceofsandiego.org. What claim should we explore next?

— EMILY ALPERT

Summer Polacek

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

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