While there was statewide improvement in the 1986 California Assessment Program scores of 12th-graders, Orange County school districts this year showed mixed results.
The annual CAP tests are given to seniors in December to determine their ability in reading, written expression, spelling and math. The results for high schools statewide were released Wednesday.
As usual, most Orange County schools posted higher scores than the statewide averages in the four skills. But in an unusual trend, several districts showed less improvement than in years past, and a few districts that usually post high scores discovered that the numbers for 1986 show a decline.
4 Districts Decline
Of 15 school districts in Orange County that have high schools, four showed districtwide declines in all test areas. They are Brea-Olinda Unified, Newport-Mesa Unified, Tustin Unified and Santa Ana Unified.
Seven districts showed across-the-board improvements in reading, written expression, spelling and math. They are Saddleback Valley Unified, Placentia Unified, Los Alamitos Unified, Orange Unified, Garden Grove Unified, Fullerton Joint Union High School District and Huntington Beach Union High School District.
Four districts--Anaheim Union High School, Irvine Unified, Laguna Beach Unified and Capistrano Unified--showed improvement in three of the four test areas.
Ineligible for Cash
State education officials in Sacramento said Wednesday that the declines in the Santa Ana Unified and Tustin Unified districts mean that none of their schools are eligible to receive the cash rewards, called "Cash for CAPS," that go to any school that tests at least 93% of its seniors and shows overall improvement contrasted with the year before.
(Newport-Mesa Unified declined to take part in the "Cash for CAPS" program, but its declining scores meant that it would not have been eligible for funds anyway, state officials said.)
Although Brea-Olinda Unified scores showed an overall decline, the district's continuation school, Brea Canyon High, showed marked improvement and thus is eligible for "Cash for CAPS" money.
The declines in the Tustin, Newport-Mesa and Brea-Olinda district scores may only signify a natural plateau for districts that have enjoyed years of high and rising scores, officials in those systems said. The scores for those three districts, even with the declines this year, are still considerably above the statewide average.
Santa Ana Unified, which has one of the largest immigrant enrollments in the nation, traditionally suffers because of the lower test scores of its non-English-speaking students. Vergil Hettick, director of research and evaluation for the district, said: "There was an overall decline of only a couple of points, and our English-only students have relatively stable scores. We did, however, have a dramatic decline in LEP (limited-English proficient) scores, which was aggravated by a 50% increase in the number of 12th-grade limited-English speakers."
Edgar Seal, superintendent of Brea-Olinda Unified, said Wednesday that he is not surprised that his district showed a decline this year. "We'd been going up--at the top of the county (scores)--for four years, and we knew there was going to be a year when the scores would go down," he said. "You can't ride the crest all the time."
Similarly, John Nicoll, superintendent of Newport-Mesa Unified, said Wednesday that his district's scores could not be expected to rise indefinitely.
"This is the first time it's been anything but up, and it was not a particularly significant decline," Nicoll said. "It just may be one (senior) class going through. We're not going to fret over one year, but if this keeps up, then we'll start worrying."
Tustin Unified officials noted that the district in recent years has shown consistent improvement at the 12th-grade level and that this year's scores may just be a leveling off. But there were also some accusatory remarks indicative of the continuing conflict between the teachers' union and district Supt. Maurice Ross. Sandy Banis, president of the union, said the scores are a bad reflection on Ross' leadership. Ross, in remarks several days ago, suggested that the teachers' strike last fall was a "distraction" that probably affected the CAP scores this year.
Mark Fetler, a research and evaluation consultant with the state Department of Education in Sacramento, said that there can be many reasons for a drop in scores. "Some of it can be the fault of the schools themselves. It can reflect a school's lack of expectation of students, such as assigned homework. Changing population can also cause a school's scores to decline. There can even be factors such as changes in textbooks and changes in (school) administration," Fetler said.
Orange County Results in California Assesment Program Tests A Comparison