Students in Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific continued to perform better than the national average on the TerraNova, according to 2004 standardized test results.

Across the board — in reading, language, math, science and social studies — the average DODDS Pacific test-taker in grades three to 11 scored higher than at least 50 percent of students nationwide.

“When you compare us to what school districts in the States might be achieving, our students tend to score very high,” said David Doss, DODDS-Pacific assessment and evaluation coordinator.

TerraNova scores aren’t compared between school districts; the test is designed to measure individual achievement — how a student’s scores compare to a national norm and whether they fluctuate from year to year.

“If we had a national sample of school districts to compare against, we’re probably somewhere in the 80th or 90th percentile for districts,” Doss said.

As proof, he points to another assessment — the National Assessment of Educational Progress — given periodically to a sample of students nationwide. On that test’s most recent reading assessment in 2003, none of the 53 participating states and other jurisdictions scored higher than DODDS students in grade eight.

The 2004 TerraNova results showed some improvement over 2002 and 2003 scores, Doss said. It’s an encouraging sign since measures of general achievement, like TerraNova, normally change slowly over time and can be influenced by numerous disruptive factors at home or in the school, from a deployed parent to an ill teacher.

The upward trend “gives us some hope that we’re affecting the scores, which is not an easy thing to do,” Doss said.

But DODDS Pacific can’t take all the credit for high TerraNova scores, Doss said.

“Most of our students are with us for three years, then they go back to the States,” he said. “We think they receive a lot of their education in a lot of different school districts in the country.

“The military is meritocracy,” he said. “To stay in the military for many years, you have to be successful in the military. As our students get older, their parents are older and have been more successful” and may indicate a change in socioeconomic status across the years.

“As a profession,” Doss said, “we have not been able to remove the impact of socioeconomic status on student achievement.”

DODDS Pacific high school students scored particularly well: For example, juniors in 2004 scored at the 76th percentile in reading — meaning that 50 percent of DODDS Pacific students in this group scored above the 76th percentile, compared with only 24 percent nationwide.

“There’s some good things going on in our schools and parents should feel good about the quality of education their kids are receiving,” Doss said. “I think our scores may be as much a testimony to American schools in general and the military families, as they are to what happens when they are in DODDS.”

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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