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Test Disparity Costs San Gabriel High State Incentive Cash

May 11, 1986|ROD LAZO | Times Staff Writer

San Gabriel High School has been disqualified from receiving cash incentives of up to $147,000 this year for improving scores under a state testing program, because its results fluctuated too greatly under a formula mandated by the Legislature.

The formula was devised after state officials discovered last year that two schools in Northern California intentionally let their California Assessment Program scores drop in 1984-85. When scores went up significantly this year it could have resulted in large cash rewards.

San Gabriel High School officials have denied any wrongdoing and said they will appeal the decision. State officials said the money could still be awarded if San Gabriel High School can prove the scores are valid and had not been tampered with.

'Too Great a Drop'

"Nobody has accused (San Gabriel) of anything, but when the formula was applied they ended up being on the list of schools that had had too great a drop," from 1983-84 to 1984-85, said Barbara Wilson, a consultant with the state Department of Education's division of program evaluation.

San Gabriel is one of six schools in the state that have been denied cash awards because the formula applied to the scores showed too wide a fluctuation over the last two years. If San Gabriel's scores had been allowed to stand, its award would have been the fifth-highest in the state this year.

The complicated formula takes into account such things as the number of students tested and how much scores in all the areas tested dropped in 1984-85 from results in 1983-84. State officials said they are concerned if a composite score arrived at by applying the formula shows a drop of more than 50% from one year to the next.

San Gabriel's scores in reading, writing, spelling and math dropped in 1984-85, then rose this year, but, except for spelling, not above levels reached in 1983-84. For example, the school's percentage of correct answers on the math test was 68.2 in 1983-84, 62.7 in 1984-85 and 66.3 in 1985-86.

State education officials said such fluctuations are not abnormal, but when all areas tested vary that much, the composite score based on the formula results in a significant drop.

Dropped About 60%

The six schools denied incentive funds "had an equal or larger drop (in the composite score based on the formula) than those two we knew had tampered with the scores," Wilson said. San Gabriel's composite score dropped by about 60%, she said.

Officials from the Alhambra School District are appealing the decision, saying there was absolutely no attempt by them to let the scores drop last year so that a large gain this year would result in a big payoff.

"I'm frankly offended to be grouped with schools in that type of situation," said Jack Mount, San Gabriel High School principal. "We are open to any investigation or review that should be taken. . . . In the meantime we have qualified like any other high school and should receive an award."

Dianne Saurenman, assistant superintendent of the district, said the school "feels a little slighted" for being excluded from the 25 schools in the San Gabriel Valley that qualified for CAP incentive funds this year.

"We absolutely know there was no shady practice going on," she said.

Statewide, 548 high schools, or 48%, raised their scores in reading, writing, mathematics and spelling to qualify for some of the $14.6 million in incentive money. The awards, which are intended to increase participation in the voluntary tests, are also determined on the basis of the number of students who took the test and how well they performed in specific categories.

134 Schools in County

Awards will be given to 134 high schools in Los Angeles County, compared with 109 last year. This is the second year the cash-incentive funds will be awarded.

Recipients of large awards in the San Gabriel Valley include Glen A. Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights, which will receive $126,676, and Diamond Bar High School, which will receive $143,633.

The two other high schools in the Alhambra School District with San Gabriel had opposite results. Keppel High School in Alhambra will get $59,964, the second year the school has received incentive funds. Alhambra High School, which netted $85,000 last year, had a slight decrease in writing and mathematics scores and will not receive any funds.

Under state guidelines, each winning school must establish a committee of students, teachers and parents to determine how the money will be spent. Funds can be used for a variety of purposes, including campus beautification, supply purchases and to help defray the costs of special senior activities.

The other five schools denied awards were Chico High School, one of the two schools accused of tampering with test scores last year, Paramount High School, Anaheim High School, Grant Union High School in Sacramento and Hoopa High School near Humboldt.

'The Schools Can Appeal'

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