Lodi and Galt students who don't speak English as a primary language ranked higher than their peers statewide in basic English proficiency marks.
The California Department of Education this week reported results from the first testing season of the new California English Language Development Test.
More than 1.5 million students took the CELDT in 2001, representing a quarter of public school students.
The test is one of the first in the nation required to identify and monitor student progress toward English language mastery, state officials said.
Kindergarten and first-grade students are tested on listening and speaking skills while second- to 12th-grade students also take exams in reading and writing skills.
Based on language development, students are ranked into five proficiency levels: Beginning, early intermediate, intermediate, early advanced and advanced.
About 30 percent of Lodi Unified School District students overall scored in early advanced and advanced levels of language fluency on the test.
In Galt, the elementary and high school districts had a combined 35 percent of English-learning students in the upper proficiencies.
The statewide results showed 25 percent of students scored at the early advanced or advanced levels.
While districts previously have used different tests to measure student progress, state lawmakers developed the program two years ago to create a uniform standard.
Students whose primary language is not English are required to take the CELDT within the first month they enroll in public schools. They're also required to take the test annually until they're considered English proficient.
Local district results mirrored some statewide trends with older students scoring higher than those in lower grades and fewer high school students tested.
Christine Malandro, Lodi Unified's multilingual education coordinator, said the district has twice as many students enrolling in district schools at the beginning language levels at 8 percent than the state.
English-learning students represent about 30 percent of the 27,000-student district. "It's our largest special needs population," Malandro said.
More than 8,800 Lodi Unified students were tested in 2001.
Some districts have complained the test is time-consuming and expensive, requiring specially trained teachers more than an hour to administer for individual students.
Despite the cumbersome process, Malandro said the test provides valuable information for tailoring student instruction.
"We're making progress, and we'll continue to develop programs to meet the needs of students," Malandro said.
Currently, district officials are creating benchmarks for evaluating student progress on the standards based upon the number of years they have attended district schools and their level of English skills when they began, she added.
Karen Schauer, Galt elementary district's curriculum coordinator, said district officials examining the first-year results of more than 1,000 students tested.
Schauer said she was encouraged the number of students in the upper levels exceeded the state average.
Galt teachers have been using individual student reports to find ways to improve student achievement after the district received the individual results earlier this year, she said.
The district also will use the data to help measure the success of its programs geared for English-learning students, Schauer added.
State, county and district reports are available on the California Department of Education's Web site.
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