Oakland Public Schools, Office of Public Information
1025 Second Ave. - Room 109 - Oakland, CA 94606
Phone: (510) 879-8582 - Fax (510) 879-1834

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,  July 15, 1998                 CONTACT: Sue Piper  (510) 879-8582

Oakland Test Scores Support Benefits of Bilingual Education

OAKLAND, CALIF.­­Stating that the STAR test results vindicated its position on bilingual education, the Oakland Unified School District today released data that showed that bilingual students in Oakland who become proficient in the English language exceed the national average in their academic performance on the 1998 standardized test, and even do better than their English-only counterparts. STAR test results for English-speaking students in Oakland in the benchmark grades of 3, 5, 8 and 10 show that between one-fourth and one-third of students performed at or above the 50th percentile on the STAR test. The 50th percentile is considered grade level performance.

TABLE: Total Reading, Math, and Language Percentile Scores
TABLE: Number of Students Tested by Language Groups
TABLE: Percent of English Speaking Students Scoring At/Above the National Average (50th Percentle)*

"Like other Districts throughout the state, we have found that when English language learners have the opportunity to successfully learn English, they outperform many of their English-only contemporaries," said Acting Board President Jean Quan.

"On the other hand, testing students who are not proficient in English does not measure their academic performance and is invalid," she continued, noting that Oakland's test score release does not include the results for English language learners who have been in this country 30 months or less.

Oakland has taken a strong stand on behalf of Bilingual Education, joining Berkeley and San Francisco in a successful bid for a temporary restraining order that barred the State from releasing STAR test scores for limited English proficient (LEP) just days before the State planned to release test scores on the Internet on June 30th. Instead, the State was forced to limit its release to statewide results for English-only students.

The Court will rule on Thursday, July 16 whether to hold a hearing on a permanent restraining order.

"Some have accused Oakland of trying to block the release of scores because we were trying to hide our District's performance. Nothing is further from the truth," said Carole Quan, Superintendent of the 53,000 student Oakland Public Schools. One-third, about 18,000 students, are English-language learners and 5,000 of these students are recent immigrants.

"Once we had the opportunity to separate the LEP scores from the totals and take a good look at the information, we found few surprises. Our test score achievement levels are similar to what was reported last year on Terra Nova," she continued. 

"Oakland has always been up front about our test results. Last year, each school's results on the Terra Nova standardized achievement test was published in our local newspaper, and will appear again this fall," she continued. "We still have a lot of work to do to raise student performance in Oakland, and we will continue to focus our energies on both language arts literacy and math literacy." 

This past year the District instituted a focused approach to teaching literacy, using school site coaches for teachers to improve their teaching strategies, and regular curriculum-embedded tests to monitor student progress.

"We never expected things to turn around in just one year. It will take two to three years for significant results to begin to appear," noted Superintendent Quan. She added that the District considers literacy crucial to improving student achievement.

"Not only did teachers at school sites emphasize teaching strategies in literacy last year, but will continue to refocus their efforts in the coming school year. Additionally, the District and the City of Oakland are making literacy a City priority, and seek volunteers to tutor 3rd graders who need extra help to ensure that they can read at grade level by next spring.

"In education, it is said that students learn to read through third grade,, and then read to learn thereafter. Providing the extra support so that all of our students are reading at grade level by the end of 3rd grade is critical to transforming education in Oakland," she said.

"This fall, even as we continue our Focus on Literacy, we will add an emphasis on math, particularly on algebra and algebra readiness. Perhaps more than any other course, algebra is truly the gatekeeper to college. That is why our District just changed its graduation requirements to mandate algebra in the  9th grade. The 9th graders entering high school this fall will all be enrolled in algebra. But knowing that many of them may have a hard time with the rigorous math curriculum, we encouraged students to take a pre-algebra course in summer school and have built into their day an algebra tutorial, so that they can take and pass algebra by the end of the year," Superintendent Quan continued.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us. The STAR test results are but one of many measures of student performance. They didn't tell us anything new, only reinforced the need for all of us--parents, teachers, students and the community--to focus our efforts on high student