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4 S.E. Area High Schools Fail to Meet 2-Year Goals on State Tests

June 26, 1986|LEE HARRIS and PAM MORELAND | Times Staff Writers

Fewer than half of the state's public high schools reached two-year goals for improvement on a standardized math and reading test, according to figures released last week by Bill Honig, state superintendent of public instruction.

Those falling short of the goals included four of 29 high schools in the Southeast area.

Three of those schools were among 101 California high schools that recorded declining scores in both the math and reading parts of the test.

Honig characterized schools that did not show improvements as exhibiting "a danger symptom of a lack of learning."

But some local school administrators countered that they were victims of success, since it was difficult for their students to improve on traditionally high scores.

The ratings of high schools were based on an average of the results of the California Assessment Program (CAP) reading and math tests for the last two years. Although results of these tests have been released before, this is the first time the scores have been analyzed to see if schools met statewide goals set by Honig in 1984.

Honig's Goal

Honig's goal for each school was to improve math and reading scores in CAP tests by 0.5% or move to the top 25% of comparable schools--those with a similar social and economic makeup within the student body.

Of 739 public high schools statewide, 349 met or exceeded goals in both reading and math.

Long Beach Polytechnic, in the Long Beach Unified School District, was one of 10 schools in the state that exceeded goals and placed in the top quarter.

"This has been a fine year for Poly. This is the best year we have had in many years. It means that students are serious about their studies," said Dick Van Der Laan, director of public and employee information.

Earlier this month, Poly was among 30 California schools declared winners of the first Distinguished Schools Awards, given by the state Department of Education and Honig to honor exceptional individuals, institutions and programs.

11 Schools Met Goals

Whitney High School, in the ABC Unified School District, was one of 11 Southeast area schools that met their goals in both subjects.

Whitney, which was one of the 30 schools receiving the Distinguished Schools Award, also placed in the top quarter.

Statewide, another 259 schools met the goal in only one subject--math or reading.

Thirteen Southeast area schools were in this category.

Of the 131 schools with declining scores, 30 fell to the bottom quarter of their comparison group. No Southeast school fell into that category.

Administrators at some of the schools that did not meet state goals said it is unfair to conclude that their schools are doing a poor job. Instead, the scores reflect the narrowness of Honig's goals, they said.

The schools not meeting the state goals were Norwalk, Glenn, Lynwood and Paramount high schools.

Compared to the Best

For example, Norwalk High School did not meet the goals, but Norwalk-La Mirada schools superintendent Bruce C. Newlin, said "We simply didn't raise the scores to the level Mr. Honig expected of us. Test scores measure one single dimension.

"Good learning is going on here. This means we need to continue to pay attention to those areas."

John Glenn High, which is in the same district, did not meet its goals but La Mirada High did.

"It is interesting that last year both Glenn and Norwalk received 'Cash for CAP.' So I'm not going to panic," said Newlin.

"Cash for CAP," was established two years ago to give money to any school that tests at least 93% of its seniors and shows an overall improvement over scores from the previous years. Both Glenn and Norwalk received between $25,000 and $30,000, the superintendent said.

Lynwood Unified School District Supt. LaVoneia Steele made similar comments.

Right Direction

"There is evidence that we are moving in the right direction. We're not as far along as he (Honig) would like us to be. But the latest scores don't give the total picture," Steele said.

Lynwood High School, for example, also received $36,000 in "cash for CAP" money for improvement, Steele said.

"When the state set the 1983-84 school year as the bench mark year, Paramount High had the highest CAP scores in the history of the school," said Richard B. Caldwell, superintendent of the Paramount Unified School District.

"We had the brightest and the sharpest students ever. That was a fluke year," Caldwell said.

"Since that time our limited English-speaking population has continued to rise, from 5.3% in 1983 to 8.4% in 1986. This means more of a burden is place on teachers to do the best they can to teach the kids as fast as they can.

"We will continue to work to improve the scores," he added.

The CAP test has become one of the cornerstones of Honig's plan to make schools more accountable to the public through periodic publication of test scores, dropout percentages and other so-called "quality indicators."

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