San Diego County high schools fared well in a statewide assessment of progress in math and reading released Thursday by the state Department of Education.
Thirty-two of 48 county high schools--66.6%--placed in the top two categories of the five-tier list created by Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig. The results were based on 12th-graders' performances on California Assessment Program tests over the past two years.
The top category included schools that showed dramatic improvement in both reading and math scores. The second category included schools that improved both math and reading scores or ranked in the top 25% of schools with comparable socioeconomic profiles.
"Schools are starting to take (the CAP tests) seriously," said Jack Tierney, research evaluation manager for the County Office of Education. "And one of the reasons is that you've got dollars attached to improvement with the 'Cash for CAPs' program."
Under that program, established by the state Legislature in 1984, schools that show the greatest improvement are rewarded with cash bonuses.
None of the San Diego Unified School District's 16 high schools placed in the bottom two categories of the ranking system, which would have meant declining math and reading scores. A middle category included schools that met their goal for improving scores in one area, but not the other.
Grant Behnke Jr., assistant director of the city schools' evaluation department, attributed the results to increased emphasis on basic skills in traditionally low-achieving schools.
"We're very pleased to see that our scores are going up, not just in comparison to a state average but (in comparison) to other (similar) schools," he said.
In the Sweetwater Union High School District, where most schools historically register the county's lowest test scores, five high schools placed in the top two categories. But two other schools registered declining scores in both.
"I think we've got a ways to go," Supt. Anthony Trujillo said. "We're very low. We need to do better.
"I think improvement's OK. I think we're making some steady improvement. I just think we have a ways to go before I'd be satisfied," Trujillo said.
In the Grossmont Union High School District, four schools placed in the top two tiers, three placed in the third category and two were ranked in the bottom two levels.