The California Standards Tests results that public school reputations live and die by were published last week. As , many of our local elementary schools did quite well but there were significant discrepancies among the campuses. Why?
To begin with, there are differences in race and socioeconomic status at the different schools. , which had stellar scores, is 54 percent white, according to Greatschools.net. Only 7 percent of its students are English language learners and 9 percent are eligible for free or reduced lunches, a marker of low household income.
—whose students did not perform as well on the tests—is 5 percent white, 88 percent Hispanic or Latino with 59 percent English language learners and 83 percent eligible for free or reduced lunches.
The achievement gap among racial and socioeconomic groups has been a much-publicized focus of statewide and national education reform, but Grand View parent Sarah Auerswald isn’t worried about the school’s scores.
"Test scores at a school like Grand View reflect a demographic that's made up of largely English language learners and of course the scores are an aggregate of the whole school," she said. "[And] practically half of Grand View is a Spanish immersion program [so] you can imagine that the test scores might be lower than at a school like Mar Vista, where the demographics are very different and the instruction is all in English."
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, schools are now required to show students' progress, broken down by ethnic groups, English learners, socioeconomically disadvantaged and disabled students. Individual schools, districts, states and the nation are struggling with how to overcome these persistent differences, especially with the extremely limited resources now devoted to public education.
Both the California state government and our national government favor measuring our children's quality of education by the standardized test scores. Although parents look at test scores and sometimes fret over them, they're not the only measure of success families consider.
Talk to parents at Grand View or read their reviews of the school online, and test scores are not uppermost in their minds. Rather, they praise the teachers, the Spanish dual language immersion program and the community.
"Grand View is a great school for my kids," Auerswald said. ["And] we love the Spanish immersion program."
Mar Vista Elementary parents also love their school. In fact, many families outside the school's footprint try to find ways to enroll their children there. And while the school's test scores are excellent, families also want to send their kids to that school because they're drawn to the strong community involvement and the extras provided by the funds raised by the school's booster club such as computers, technology instruction, a science program, an art teacher and supplies, playground equipment and teachers' aides.
Test scores do not always reflect everything a school has to offer, and as Auerswald notes, "Test scores can never tell you how your child will do in school. [They] have no bearing on where I decide to send my kids to school."