Nearly 70 percent of Alpine School District students who took the Survey of Basic Skills test this year scored above the national average.

The test is taken yearly by about one-third (14,903 in 1988) of the district's students. Youngsters in grades 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 took tests that measured reading, language arts and math skills.District officials are particularly pleased with the test results, because the test is not one students have the option of taking. All students eventually participate. Alpine students have also scored well on voluntary tests like the ACT, a college entrance exam.

Frank Cameron, Alpine's research and evaluation director, said test scores don't tell all about the progress of a district, but they are an important indicator of how much students are learning.

"There are a lot of things that happen in a district like ours that a simple set of scores don't portray, but these are important, because they allow us to compare ourselves to other districts nationwide," Cameron said. "Our district tends to behave like a private school in terms of the scores we have. When we look at all of the data, a rather clear picture emerges. Our students simply do better than their peers nationally."

Students actually scored lower in some categories this year than they have in the past two years, but Cameron said that is mostly due to a recent change in the test format. Officials expect scores to be back near the district's high during the next couple of years.

Secondary students' scores decreased slightly over last year, while elementary students' scores rose a little.

"It's difficult to tell at this point what this means, because this is only the second year of participation in this particular test," Cameron said.