Except for ninth-graders, Payson students aced the Stanford 9 Achievement Test (SAT9).
Results were released last week for the SAT9, one of two standardized tests taken by Arizona students in grades two through nine. Payson students in grades two through eight scored consistently better than Gila County and Arizona students in math, reading and language arts -- well above the national average.
In math, all PUSD grade levels were in the 60th percentile or above, with sixth-graders setting the pace at an average score of 71. By comparison, county sixth-graders scored 53 and Arizona sixth-graders scored 64. The national norm is 50, meaning half the students taking the test were above 50 and half below.
In reading, all PUSD grade levels except ninth grade scored 60 or above. Fourth-graders outpointed all other grades with a 71, compared to 56 for Gila County students and 52 for Arizona students.
In language arts, PUSD grade levels three through eight scored above the national norm. Seventh-graders set the pace with a score of 65, compared to 47 for Gila County seventh-graders and 55 percent statewide.
PUSD second-graders scored 46 in language arts, still above the county average of 38 and the state average of 41.
Ninth grade lowest
While Payson ninth-graders scored 61 in math, their cumulative reading score was 41, and their language arts score was 35 -- a full 30 percent below the national norm.
District Superintendent Herb Weissenfels said abnormally low ninth-grade scores are somewhat explainable.
"Generally, when students move from the top of a grade in one school to the bottom of the grade in another, their scores drop," he said.
Results by school
Broken down by elementary school, Payson Elementary School fifth-graders posted the best math score at 74. Julia Randall Elementary second-graders had the lowest math score in the district with a composite 54 -- still 8 percent above the national norm.
PES fourth-graders earned the highest reading score among the three elementary schools with a 74, narrowly beating Frontier Elementary School fourth-graders who posted a 73. JRE second- and fifth-graders had the lowest reading scores, both groups earning a 56 -- still 12 percent above the national norm.
In language arts, PES fourth-graders led the way with a 67. JRE second-graders recorded the lowest language arts score at 39 -- 22 percent below the national average.
Compared to the 2002 scores, JRE showed the most improvement, recording higher scores in seven of 12 grade categories. FES scores, on the other hand, were lower in all 12 grade categories compared to a year ago.
Room for improvement
Weissenfels was pleased with the results, but said he wants the district to do better.
"Overall, we tend to be well above state average," he said. "But we sit back and think, ‘Well, in some cases that's only 58 percent. What about the 42 percent?' So it's a mixed bag. Above average, great. However, it also indicates there are things we need to concentrate and go to work on."
On a statewide basis, Arizona students scored an average of 10 points above the national average on the SAT9. Ninth-graders, however, scored below average statewide as they did in Payson.
State Superintendent of Schools Tom Horne thanked Arizona's educators for their efforts, especially considering that Arizona ranks 49th in educational spending among the 50 states.
The state's highest reading scores were a pair of 90s recorded by Elgin Elementary School in the Sonoita school district and Fruchthendler Elementary in Tucson. The best math score was a 96 recorded by the ninth grade at University High in Tucson, while the top language arts score was a 91 earned by Alhambra seventh-graders in Phoenix.
In Arizona, 460,000 students took the SAT9 test in April and May. SAT9 questions are taken from nationally used textbooks.
Besides the SAT9, Arizona students also take the Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards test. AIMS tests are according to state rather than national standards.