Standardized test scores: How we crunched the data

The California Department of Education provides standardized testing data, by year, for every school in the state. These tests, such as the ACT and SAT, are designed to gauge students’ capabilities and preparedness for college. inewsource reviewed and analyzed ACT, SAT and other results from the past five school years.

The inewsource investigation into Gompers Preparatory Academy, in addition to dozens of interviews with former students, teachers and key stakeholders, relied on the results of this data to compare Gompers to schools across the San Diego Unified School District, San Diego County and total individual schools in California.

These tests are not the only factors determining admission to postsecondary education, but they serve as prominent indicators of how a student might perform in college.

For full disclosure and transparency, we explain our methodology below, including our approach to standardizing existing data, removing schools with unreported data and those that, due to privacy issues, did not report full statistics because there were too few test takers.

The analysis comparing the standardized test scores was done using the rate of test takers who met or exceeded established standards for each respective test. To put it simply, we calculated what we’ll call the pass rate. inewsource chose the pass rate because standardized tests have evolved over the five-year period analyzed.

For example, SAT scores for the 2015-2016 school year were based on a new scoring system that totals 1,600, as determined by The College Board, a nonprofit higher education preparedness organization that administers the test and provides data to education departments in the U.S.

The new sections are the Evidence-Based Reading & Writing (ERW) and Math, and scores for each range between 200 to 800. Previously, the SAT test had three sections: Math, Critical Reading and Writing, for a total possible score of 2,400.

For the 2015-2016 school year, The College Board identified the pass rate as students who achieve ERW SAT scores at or above 480, and Math SAT scores at or above 530. Students who met this benchmark were considered college- and career-ready. inewsource used this benchmark to calculate the pass rate, or the number of students meeting or exceeding that benchmark divided by the total number of test takers.

Previous SAT tests used three sections during the period analyzed, but the benchmark was still calculated using the number of students meeting or exceeding the benchmark score divided by the total number of test takers.

inewsource did not calculate individual ERW and Math scores over time because the data was reported in different ways over the five years analyzed.

Here are the comparative rates of students who met or exceeded the 2015-2016 benchmark standards:

2015-2016 SAT

  • Gompers 6.19%, or 14 out of 226, met or exceeded standards
  • SDUSD 45.74%, or 3,277 out of 7,165, met or exceeded standards
  • San Diego County 53.31%, or 13,814 out of 25,913, met or exceeded standards
  • California 45.68%, or 142,182 out of 311,268, met or exceeded standards

See nearly every California school’s SAT pass rate in our searchable database available here.

The rates listed above differ slightly from the master California Department of Education data because of how inewsource standardized this data.

Here’s why: inewsource removed any schools where students did not take tests, in addition to removing schools that redacted scores because fewer than 11 (or 15 for some years) students took the tests. The 11 (or 15) students are listed in state data as either “N/A” or defined with an * to protect student privacy.

Our analysis differs from the aggregate California, SDUSD and San Diego County rates because those total numbers include every student.

For example, here’s the same rate calculation but based on the aggregate number of total California, SDUSD and San Diego County students (including those with fewer than 11 or 15 student results):

2015-2016 SAT

  • Gompers 6.19%, or 14 out of 226, met or exceeded standards
  • SDUSD 45.69%, or 3,285 out of 7,189, met or exceeded standards
  • San Diego County 53.26%, or 13,865 out of 26,032, met or exceeded standards
  • California 45.56%, or 143,741 out of 315,469, met or exceeded standards

The raw data, in addition to individual schools, listed aggregates at the state, county and district level for three of the five years analyzed. The other two years, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, listed only test results for individual schools. The inewsource analysis is based on individual schools, grouped accordingly at the county and district level and including all schools at the state level.

The difference in the raw numbers and rates did not change 1 full percent in any calculation across the five years analyzed.

You can see the results of the five-year analysis here:

For ACT scores, inewsource standardized test results under the same approach as the SAT scores: inewsource removed any schools where students did not take tests, in addition to removing schools that redacted scores because fewer than 11 (15 for some years) students took the tests. The schools with reports of 15 (or 11) students or fewer are listed in state data as either “N/A” or defined with an * to protect student privacy.

The ACT test is based on four distinct sections in Science, Math, Reading and English. Each section is scored on a scale from 1 to 36. The results also include a composite score, or average, of the four sections, as defined by ACT Inc. – the company that administers the test and returns data to departments of education across the U.S.

The ACT benchmarks, as defined by ACT Inc., are as follows:

  • Science: 23
  • Math: 22
  • Reading : 22
  • English: 18

A student meeting each benchmark has a “high probability” of earning a C or higher in the first year of college in each respective subject.

Although there is no established composite benchmark according to ACT Inc., the “pass rate” for the average of the four separate scores is defined as meeting or exceeding 21, according to data compiled by the California Department of Education.

inewsource’s analysis was calculated using the composite score, or average of the scores in Science, Math, Reading and English. Put simply, inewsource calculated the pass rate by dividing the number of students that had a composite score of 21 or greater by the total number of test takers.

Here’s the calculation for the 2015-2016 school year:

2015-2016 ACT

  • Gompers 5.08%, or 6 out of 118, met or exceeded the 21 score.
  • SDUSD 57.88%, or 1399 out of 2417, met or exceeded the 21 score.
  • San Diego County 65.43%, or 6545 out of 10003, met or exceeded the 21 score.
  • California 57.71%, or 61498 out of 106568, met or exceeded the 21 score.

See nearly every California school’s ACT pass rate in our searchable database available here.

You can see the results of the five-year analysis here:

More in the series…

Gompers Preparatory Academy
Data, teachers’ allegations undermine Gompers’ college-ready promise
Data, documents and interviews contradict the Gompers brand of preparing every student for college. Teachers say grades are inflated, and if students still can’t graduate, they are “counseled” to attend school elsewhere. The same teachers who praise the director’s talent blame him, saying he shames educators who assign failing grades by telling them they are “murdering” kids.

Gompers-03-web
Gompers in the spotlight: Students and teachers speak out
The association tasked with accrediting charter schools confirmed it is looking into allegations of grade inflation documented in inewsource’s investigation of San Diego’s Gompers Preparatory Academy.

Felipe Morfin Martinez, a former student at Gompers Preparatory Academy, is a communications pre-major at UCSD. He posed for a portrait on May 17, 2017 inside of the Biomedical Library. Megan Wood, inewsource.
Despite A's at Gompers, former student talks about feeling unprepared
A Q&A with Felipe Morfin Martinez, who graduated from Gompers in 2016 and was awarded a full-ride scholarship to the University of California San Diego where he is studying communications.
shadow-ornament

We'll let you know when big things happen.

About Brandon Quester:

Brandon Quester is director of data and visuals at inewsource. To contact him with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email brandonquester [at] inewsource [dot] org.

About Brad Racino:

Brad Racino is a senior reporter and assistant director at inewsource. To contact him with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email bradracino at inewsource dot org.
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