Definition of ?basic? should differ among LAUSD schools

Briaune Knighton

In a time where it isn’t easy to achieve one’s educational goals, another obstacle is put in the way of excelling even in grade school.

Although most of California’s students received higher ratings compared to last year it appears that the hard work will not count as the federal targets in standardized testing have become more difficult. The increased federal targets could ultimately result in many of California’s schools being categorized as unsuccessful.

The 2008 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) asserts that standardized test scores at the elementary, middle school and high school levels have all increased in the Los Angeles School District.

The STAR program is used to evaluate how well students are ‘living up to’ the California content standards. The annual results are also used to figure out whether schools and school districts are meeting state and federal accountability requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act. Although this year’s reports are showing advancements in subjects such as mathematics, English and science, these scores may not cut it according to federal requirements.

In California’s push towards greatness in its students, one can’t help but wonder whether or not these levels are attainable when there is a lack of funding in education. The LAUSD had to re-evaluate its finances earlier this year because Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s revised budget did not provide enough funding. Public schools, especially under the LAUSD, wouldn’t even have the funding to obtain the supplies to try and raise test scores.’ How are these students expected to live up to new federal standards if the budget can’t even meet their standards? The LAUSD’s plans for class reductions have been delayed due to lack of funds. The teacher to student ratio in grade schools are at an all time high and it would be very hard for grade school students to meet the new federal standards if they are not being taught in a comfortable environment.

As the federal levels are raised, public schools in rural areas seem to have the short end of the stick. Their counterparts, private schools and even charter schools, may have enough financial stability to teach new curriculums in order to achieve these new levels, but public school students are left with the lack of state funding. How is it possible to give the same test to students that have very different backgrounds of studies? ‘Far below basic, below basic, basic, proficient or advanced,’ are the ratings these student’s, ranging from grades 2-11, received on standardized tests taken every year.

The 2008 STAR results convey that even local schools such as Granada Hills Charter High and Reseda Senior High School show a distinction in test results. For example, 24 percent of students in the 10th grade at Granada Hills Charter High School score at the basic level in the CST Language Arts testing, while 13 percent of 10th grade students at Reseda High School scored below basic in the same test. Should the same standard of ‘basic’ be applied to both types of students? Is that completely fair?

A good question is what is the category of ‘basic’ based on? The answer is simply this, what’s basic in East Los Angeles is not what’s basic in Beverly Hills, despite what creators of standardized tests seem to believe. The students that go to schools in these very different areas have different standards of basic and should not be expected to live up to the same standards in testing. Until the same amount of funding is distributed across the board among public schools and private/charter schools, the federal levels should stay where they are. It isn’t smart to expect the same results from schools that have a lack of funding and schools that have an abundance of funding.