The District school board decided yesterday to stop giving the Stanford 9 standardized test to first- and second-graders, saying that the test is not an accurate measure of performance for students that young, especially those who lack reading skills.
In a unanimous vote, the board agreed with a recommendation from the administration of Superintendent Paul L. Vance to eliminate the test beginning this school year and to phase in an alternative assessment for second-graders. School officials said the new exam will be a computerized test that accommodates students who cannot read.
"It's developmentally inappropriate," school board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz (At Large) said of the Stanford 9's administration to first- and second-graders. "There are very few first- or second-graders who will take the test without raising their hand or tugging at the teacher and saying, 'I need an answer to this.' "
Yesterday's vote took place at a hastily called special meeting. Board members said they needed to act before their next regular meeting so that the school system would have ample time to make the changes in the testing. The 67,500-student school system will continue administering the Stanford 9 test in April for grades 3 through 11. The test measures reading and math skills.
Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, standardized testing is not required until third grade, when students are expected to know how to read.
A number of school systems in the Washington area and elsewhere in the country use various types of assessments for first- or second-graders that take into account their limited reading abilities.
D.C. school officials said that a computerized test called Measures of Academic Progress will be given to second-graders in 20 of the system's more than 100 elementary schools this school year and that the exam will be used in more schools in subsequent years. No tests are planned for first-graders, officials said.
In the past, school officials had relied on Stanford 9 test results to determine whether first- and second-graders needed to attend summer school. The school system plans to develop other guidelines for teachers to use, Chief Academic Officer Paul F. Ruiz said.
"We will bring the various stakeholders together to put together a smart, teacher-friendly protocol," Ruiz told the school board.
Members raised concern that a number of schools lack adequate computer systems and wiring to accommodate the new test planned for second-graders. They instructed school officials to assess how many schools have equipment that needs to be improved.
School officials said that dropping the Stanford 9 tests for first- and second-graders will save $160,000. They said the alternative assessment would cost less than half that amount this year.
In another matter, the school board voted to approve new procedures for parents to enroll their children in specialized programs that are outside their normal residential boundaries. The procedures vary by program.
For instance, for out-of-boundary students to attend the international studies program at Wilson Senior High in Northwest, they must have a minimum grade-point average of 2.0, scores of "basic" or above on standardized tests and two faculty references, among other things.
Last month, the school board adopted a lottery system for most schools that have space to accept students from outside residential boundaries. But the board's policy allowed for different procedures for specialized programs.