The practice of praising students no matter how they do on their tests has faded away now that the self-esteem movement has become passé.
So there should be no glossing over the score that Lincoln Public School students posted on the statewide science test.
It was bad.
Only 62 percent of LPS students met the standard. And here are words that never were heard in the days when Nebraska used the old Lake Woebegon system: LPS students were below average.
In fact, they were a noticeable 5 points below the state average of 67 percent.
But there’s hope.
The situation is somewhat analogous to a student taking his or her first test after moving to a new school. Even a no-excuses-type parent probably will cut a student some slack on the first test.
This was the first time the statewide science test was administered. If scores follow the same trend as the scores in reading and math, improvement will follow.
The state moved to a new testing system starting in 2010 that allows school districts to be compared to each other. The first test was in reading. Only 68.6 percent of students met the standard. The next year, 71.8 percent met the standard. This year the percentage rose to 74.2.
So far, math has followed the same pattern. Last year the percentage of students who were deemed proficient was a dismal 62.8 percent. This year the percentage rose to 67.4 percent.
More heartening news came when scores on the ACT college preparatory exam were announced. Nebraska students who took the exam posted an average of 22, compared with the national average of 21.1 LPS students scored even higher at 22.9.
Scores on the ACT test are justifiably used as a benchmark for comparing how schools in Nebraska are doing compared to other states. In Nebraska, 78 percent of students took the ACT test, outperforming students in 18 other states where at least 75 percent of students took the test.
In his annual back-to-school meeting with the Journal Star editorial board, LPS Superintendent Steve Joel noted the low science test scores and promised flatly that they would be higher next time.
We take him at his word.
We don’t want to go back to the old system in which school districts made up their own tests, but we don’t want to see LPS scoring below average either. Improvement is expected.