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NCLB Outrages

HISD scores decline with updated exam

Ha! Some might wonder why the
district goes to the trouble and expense of
giving a test that, because results are lower,
won't affect student advancement or teacher
bonuses. Shouldn't the public see this as a
clue that these scores should never
count for anything?

Pearson, the test producer, wisely keeps its
mouth shut.

By Ericka Mellon

Thousands of Houston parents are finding out
their children are more average than they may
have thought.

For the last several years, HISD student scores
on the national Stanford 10 exam have been
compared with a pool of their peers who took
the test in 2002. Compared with those older
scores, HISD students have tended to come out
looking pretty good.

But this year, the company that administers the
test updated, or renormed, the reference pool
using a sampling of national scores in 2007,
when students posted better marks. As a result,
test score reports recently sent to the homes
of many HISD students donât look nearly as
impressive as they did a year ago.

Carla Stevens, the Houston Independent School
Districtâs assistant superintendent of research
and accountability, cautioned parents against
worrying too much if their childrenâs scores
fell a bit.

âIt doesnât necessarily mean they did worse on
the test,â she said. âIt just means that in
comparison with the new norming samples, they
didnât perform as high.â

Because of the dip in this yearâs Stanford
scores, which HISD uses to help determine
whether students advance to the next grade
level, the school board agreed last week to
relax the standards so students wouldnât be
unfairly retained. The testing changes wonât
impact teachersâ performance bonuses either,
the district said.

Officials at Pearson, the Stanford creator, did
not return messages Tuesday, but tests often
are renormed to account for changing student

In HISD, students in grades one to 11 take the
Stanford in reading, math, language and
environment/science. Those in grades three to
11 also take a social science portion.

Texas does not require school districts to give
the Stanford, but HISD has chosen to administer
the exam each spring since 1999 because it
allows for a national comparison of student
performance. In each subject, students get a
national percentile rank. A student scoring in
the 60th percentile, for example, fared better
than 60 percent of other test-takers.

Several other Houston-area districts either
donât give the Stanford or use it primarily to
screen for gifted students.

HISDâs overall scores on the 2009 Stanford for
all grade levels and subjects ranged from the
42nd percentile to the 62th percentile. The
50th percentile is considered average.

Last year, HISDâs scores were generally much
higher, but when the district converted its
2008 scores to the new norming standard, the
district did show improvement in 2009 in some
areas, particularly in reading, science and
social science.

HISD officials also note that the national
sample of students taking the Stanford is much
more affluent and Anglo than HISDâs student

Low-income students traditionally perform worse
on standardized tests.

âThat is not an excuse,â Stevens said. âThat
just says, our kids can hold their own.â

Carrie Lee, whose has four children in HISD,
said several parents have contacted her about
their childrenâs lower Stanford scores. âWhen
theyâd freak, Iâd be like , âDo you really
think they lost that many brain cells in the
last year, or do you think itâs something with
the test?ââ

Bob Schaeffer, of the National Center for Fair
and Open Testing, said parents should look at
the Stanford data in conjunction with their
childrenâs grades, schoolwork and results on
the state-mandated Texas Assessment on
Knowledge and Skills.

âUnderstand,â he said, âthat your child is more
than a test score.â

— Ericka Mellon
Houston Chronicle


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