Scores For Deaf Students Skew John Muir Test Results: By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Friday September 17, 2004

At least three of the 10 fourth-grade students who scored in the “far below basic” category in California Standards Test (CST) taken at Berkeley’s John Muir Elementary School last spring were deaf students who received higher grades on that test, but were placed in the lower category because the test had to be signed to them. 

Muir principal Nancy D. Waters released that information this week as she and Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) officials continued a query with testing officials into how and why the highly-rated school’s CST scores “plummeted” from last year to this. 

At least one of the deaf students listed in the lowest category because of the signing modification actually tested “proficient,” the second-highest category in the CST. 

A California State Department of Education official and CST manuals confirm that students who take the CST with “modifications”—such as having the test signed to them—are listed in the school test summary as “far below basic,” regardless of which of the five performance level categories the student actually performed in. 

Waters said that she is requesting that the California Department of Education review whether four additional deaf students—who were signed the instructions but not the entire test—may have mistakenly been listed in the “far below basic” category as well. Deaf students who are signed the instructions only are not supposed to be included in the list of students with modifications. 

A report for Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) for the Berkeley school—released this month for CST tests taken last May—indicated that 30 percent of fourth grade students had dropped from proficient to below proficient in English Language Arts in a single year. The summary report listed that 10 of the 43 students taking the test had scored in the “far below basic” category, the lowest possible category. 

The posting of the report on websites of the State Department of Education and GreatSchools.net (where schools from across the state are rated), caused concern among Muir’s faculty and parents that the teaching and learning levels at the school were dropping.  

But after Waters complained to BUSD officials that the test summary may have been in error, BUSD initiated a query with Educational Testing Services (ETS), the New Jersey-based company which administers the test for the State Department of Education. BUSD Testing Coordinator Sarah Hamilton is handling the query. 

Hamilton was not available at press time, but earlier this week she said that she had left a telephone message with ETS officials concerning the Muir tests.›