I just caught up with Ron Rode, who oversees research and evaluation in San Diego Unified, to ask why San Diego Unified scores on a national exam didn’t budge much while its state test scores leapt. Rode said that the fact that the national test did show small gains is proof that schools are improving, even if those gains weren’t considered statistically significant by the national testers.

“The bar is set a little higher” with the national exam, Rode said. “It does validate that [state test scores] went up — not as much, but still overall. … We were pleased to see, overall, at least modest increases, given the distractions we have with the economy. It confirms that good instruction is going on.”

How is the national test different than the California tests? Rode said it includes more questions that students have to write a sentence or paragraph to answer, instead of picking a multiple choice answer.

I was also curious why Hispanic fourth graders in San Diego did worse on test than Hispanic fourth graders in other urban districts. Is it because we’re closer to the border?

Rode said they haven’t gotten any conclusive data on that, but school district officials believe that Hispanic students in San Diego may be more likely to be English learners — who would typically have more difficulty on this exam — than Hispanic students in other large cities.

I’m still checking in with more smart folks to understand what the scores mean. Check back for more!


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