Total 1994 battery test scores for Salt Lake City's fifth-graders fell to their lowest level in four years of testing, while the median score for eighth-graders stayed the same and 11th-grade scores rose.
District officials say that schools generally maintained or improved their scores and stayed within expected ranges in all categories in grades 5 and 8 - even though the demographics of the district are changing radically.District scores in 11th grade were above expected ranges in all categories.
State law requires that all districts administer the Stanford Achievement Test to fifth-, eighth- and 11th-graders. This testing has been required since 1991.
However, educators note that many factors come into play when evaluating student and school progress, and they point out that standardized tests are just one measure of how well or poorly things are going.
Salt Lake City - commonly seen as a nearly all-white enclave of middle-class living - has undergone dramatic changes in the past few years.
Minority enrollment in this district has jumped from 21 percent in 1984 to 28 percent in 1993, according to a recent report given to the Salt Lake City Board of Edu-ca-tion.
When counting the youngsters who qualify for free school lunch, the report shows the number of low-income students rose from 27 percent in 1988 to 43 percent last year. The report was prepared at the request of former board member John Florez who wanted to underscore the need to make changes to help at-risk children.
Research has shown that socioeconomic status has a direct result on how well or poorly students do on standardized tests. But in Salt Lake City this year, the SAT scores at individual schools were curiously inconsistent.
Ensign Elementary School, for example, which is located in one of the city's most affluent neighborhoods, saw a four-point drop in its score from 73-69. Highland Park Elementary, located in a middle-class neighborhood, experienced a six-point drop from from 53 last year to 47 this year, which puts the school below the national norm of 50. Uintah Elementary School, also in a middle-class area, dropped nine points.
But Indian Hills Elementary, which is in a high-income neighborhood, pulled its scores up by eight points this year compared to last year.
Schools in troubled areas also had mixed results.
Edison Elementary School, which has a huge population of
low-income youngsters and many students who do not speak English, went down 15 points - the biggest drop of any elementary school. The school's outspoken principal Dale Harding resigned earlier this year but later withdrew his resignation after a flap with district officials over their potential plan to cut a teaching position from the staff.
Harding has long argued that a school where so many youngsters often see gang activity and domestic violence, frequently don't have enough to eat and many times have little or no ability to speak English need more, not fewer, teachers, as well as more supplies, classroom help and just plain tender loving care.
One school in an economically distressed area, Franklin Elementary, has seen some promising improvements. Franklin's median battery went from 18 points last year to 33 this year - a 15-point rise that puts them at the top of their expected range of achieve-ment.
In 1991, Franklin's overall score was 10, but it has risen steadily each year. Franklin has a nearly 100 percent poverty rate, a high mobility with families moving frequently, and many students with limited English proficiency.
Joan Reynolds, the district's supervisor of evaluation and assessment, said the higher scores in the eighth and 11th grades show that the longer a student stays with the Salt Lake City system, the better the child does academically. "If we can keep students in our schools, we help them score better on tests," she said in a written report.
In addition, the SAT test, which was written in 1988, no longer matches the reality of Salt Lake City's makeup.
"The SAT is designed for a middle-class, English-speaking population, and our linguistically and culturally diverse population has increased dramatically in the last four years. This affects our test scores, especially in the many subtests that require fluency in reading English," Reynolds wrote.
She believes the test is outdated and, although it is one tool, it isn't the best measure of student progress nor should it be the only one. For example, one question on an 11th-grade test talks about a library's "card catalog" - which is a mystery to many youngsters who are familiar only with computerized library systems (called "media centers" nowadays).
Reynolds has much greater faith in an ambitious and painstakingly developed series of tests that Salt Lake City has developed on its own and is continuing to develop.
One testing program was tried for the first time last year. Children read stories and write responses that have no right or wrong answers, but call upon them to show how much they understood from their reading.
"Our writing assessment and performance tasks help give a more well-rounded picture of what students are able to do than the standardized tests do because it focuses on higher-level thinking skills and what children can do with what they have learned," Reynolds wrote. "Having both kinds of testing helps us maintain perspective."
Reynolds also has other suggestions:
- Recognize the changing socioeconomic status of many children.
- Reduce class sizes in at risk-schools and assign the best teachers there.
- Create a comprehensive staff development program to train teachers in assessing student progress.
- Continue supporting the "Reading Recovery" program that helps at-risk students.
- Help students with test-taking strategies.
The Deseret News will publish the 1994 Stanford Achievement Tests for the following school districts:
- Monday, Dec. 26 - Statewide scores - Tuesday, Dec. 27 - Salt Lake City - Wednesday, Dec. 28 - Murray - Thursday, Dec. 29 - Granite - Friday, Dec. 30 - Jordan - Saturday, Dec. 31 - Davis - Sunday, Jan. 1 - Alpine - Monday, Jan. 2 - Provo - Tuesday, Jan. 3 - Nebo - Wednesday, Jan. 4 - Tooele, North/South Summit, Park City.
SALT LAKE SCHOOL DISTRICT
School 1993 1994 Change Expected
Backman 39 25 -14 21-44*
Beason Heights 59 78 +19 39-68*
Bennion Neighborhood 22 29 +7 20-44
Bennion ELP*** 93 83 -10 NA***
Bonneville 83 81 -2 47-78
Dilworth 53 69 +16 41-70
Edison 28 13 -15 14-33**
Emerson 43 53 +10 27-54
Ensign 73 69 -4 48-79
Franklin 18 33 +15 14-33
Hawthorne 44 47 +3 28-54
Highland Park 53 47 -6 41-70
Indian Hills 74 82 +8 47-78*
Jackson 16 21 +5 15-36
Lincoln 19 24 +5 14-33
Lowell Neighborhood 73 69 -4 35-63*
Lowell ELP*** 96 98 +2 NA***
Meadowlark 25 25 0 26-52**
Mountain View 30 21 -9 20-44
Newman 41 26 -15 32-60**
Nibley Park 32 44 +12 27-54*
Parkview 24 15 -9 20-43**
Riley 24 22 -2 22-45
Rose Park 35 35 0 26-52
Rosslyn Heights 73 80 +7 47-78*
Uintah 69 60 -9 47-78
Wasatch 74 75 +1 40-69*
Washington Neighborhood 37 31 -6 17-39
Washington ELP*** 71 60 -11 NA****
Whittier 30 20 -10 21-44**
Total Fifth Grade 50 45 -5 41-52
Bryant 53 59 +6 28-50*
Clayton 62 59 -3 34-59
Glendale 21 15 -6 16-34**
Hillside 60 56 -4 34-59
Northwest 30 33 +3 22-43
West ELP*** 91 96 +5 NA****
Total Eighth Grade 48 48 0 36-50
East 58 65 +7 31-57*
Highland 60 56 -4 30-56
West 60 63 +3 30-56*
Salt Lake Community 16 18 +2 23-48**
Total Eleventh Grade 57 60 +3 39-53*
*Above Expected Range
**Below Expected Range
***Contains districtwide Extended Learning Program for gifted students
****Alternative program or school