By Todd Wels

Triplicate staff writer

Students in Del Norte County have improved their math scores on the state-mandated SAT9 test by more than 13 percent since 1998.

That was the biggest of many increases over the past two years, in which the district incurred no losses in any of the test categories, according to documents released by the Del Norte County Unified School District this week.

Though the scores have risen, many of Del Norte Countys test scores still hover at or below grade level.

The SAT9 is scored according to the National Percentile Ranking, with scores of 50 considered to be at grade level.

Notable increases included:

Del Norte Countys second-graders Reading scores increased from 39 in 1998 to 49 in 2000.

Ninth-graders increased their score in Math from 48 in 1998 to 59 in 2000.

Sixth-graders increased their Language scores from 43 in 1998 to 52 in 2000.

That trend, however, may have some disturbing effects on childrens overall education.

Overall, we went up everywhere, said Doug Stark, the districts Director of Curriculum and Instruction. We did well.

Stark credited students in grades K-8 for their increased attention to the test.

That extra attention may have come from new district and state retention standards.

Those standards mandate that students failing to perform at adequate levels on the state tests may be held back if they are failing to perform academically.

When you talk about retaining kids ... by and large, that gets their attention, Stark said.

He also credited the districts teachers for the increase.

Teachers hard work should be commended, he said.

The increase in test scores may come with a dark side, though.

To achieve the increases, teachers may have had to teach to the test, spending little time on subjects outside of Reading, Math, Language, Spelling, Science, and Social Studies, Stark said. That leaves music and the arts out in the cold.

Im not against testing, Stark said. Testing has its place, but emphasis on one test... tends to narrow our standards too much.

In addition, the SAT9 test is not matched to the states educational standards.

According to Stark, most states with standards similar to Californias create their own tests to measure compliance. California, on the other hand, created its standards, and then bought the SAT9 test from its publisher.

This test differs from the Academic Performance Index which was released earlier this year, in that it measures Californias scores against other schools across the nation.

The API measures how local schools do against other schools across the state with similar economic and social conditions.

A majority of Del Norte County schools finished below the state average in the test.