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Seniors Show Big Gain in Statewide Assessment Tests

March 29, 1987|PATRICIA WARD BIEDERMAN | Times Staff Writer

"We are as high as we've ever been in 10 years," a state education official said, praising the performance of the class of '87 on the California Assessment Program (CAP) test administered to high school seniors in December.

Current California 12th-graders showed improvement over last year's seniors in reading, writing, spelling and mathematics in the standardized test, according to data compiled by the State Department of Education.

Seniors in Los Angeles County reflected the statewide trend by showing improvement in all four subject areas tested.

Educators said they were especially heartened by the surge in light of the cancellation of a two-year program that gave money to schools that showed gains in test scores. "Cash for CAP" was vetoed by Gov. George Deukmejian before current seniors took the test.

"I was amazed that results went up as much as they did without the incentives," said Pat McCabe, consultant for CAP with the state education department in Sacramento.

Warren Steinberg, principal of Fairfax High School, was pleased with the performance of his seniors, who scored higher on the average than last year's. But Steinberg has reservations about the utility of the CAP test.

Because the test does not track the performance of individual students, it is very difficult to pinpoint the reasons for their success, the Westside principal said.

"You have no way of knowing whether you did a good job or a bad job," Steinberg said. "This year we did better than last, but maybe we did a worse job of teaching and just had a better bunch of kids."

Steinberg said the school plans to test incoming 10th-graders and new students periodically to determine how effectively reading skills are being taught at Fairfax.

"We need to test people in September and then test them again in May," he said. "Then we can see what progress they've made and we can say something about how successful the school was."

Ron Kuback, coordinator of the Hamilton High School Humanities Magnet Center, which had the Westside's highest overall scores, said that the quality of a student's education is much more important than his or her performance on a particular test.

The magnet program's seniors were not coached for the test, according to Kuback. "Absolutely, positively not," he said. "If nothing else, we have integrity here. We do not ever teach to a test."

Beginning in December, California seniors will take a new, more difficult CAP test with more emphasis on reasoning and problem-solving skills, according to state education officials.

"I feel real good that the actual level of performance is increasing," McCabe said. "But one has to temper that with the fact that this is an old test, and that it's a survey of basic skills rather than a survey of academic or higher-order thinking skills."

In the revised test spelling no longer will be tested separately but as a component of written expression. In 1989 the senior test will be expanded to include questions on science and history and social science.

"The current test is not representative of what is being taught, or what we hope is being taught," McCabe said. "With the new test there will be a very high correlation between what is being taught and what is being tested."

High School Scores for 12th Graders

Sample Question


Identify the group of words which DOES NOT correctly complete the following.

Each of the men .

A. has his work cut out for him.

B. shows great talent.

C. wishes for a chance to perform.

D. have much work to do.

(Correct answer: D)

How to Read the Scores

The 12th-grade scores of the California Assessment Program are the mean percentage of correct answers and may be compared to scores in other schools and to district, county and state averages.

Scores for third-, sixth- and eighth-grade students, who will take the test this spring, will be reported in the fall.

State, County Averages


Reading Writing Spelling Math 84-85 62.9 63.2 69.7 68.3 85-86 62.7 63.4 70.1 68.7 86-87 63.6 64.1 70.6 70.0


Reading Writing Spelling Math 84-85 60.1 60.5 68.3 65.3 85-86 58.6 59.8 68.0 65.0 86-87 60.9 61.6 69.3 67.3

District and School Averages Centinela Valley Union DISTRICT AVERAGE

Reading Writing Spelling Math 84-85 57.6 56.5 69.1 64.3 85-86 57.7 57.3 67.4 64.1 86-87 58.0 58.0 70.0 65.6


Reading Writing Spelling Math 84-85 59.3 58.1 70.4 65.8 85-86 57.7 57.6 66.5 62.8 86-87 59.9 58.0 68.4 64.2


Reading Writing Spelling Math 84-85 55.5 54.7 67.6 62.6 85-86 57.6 56.7 68.3 65.5 86-87 55.8 57.8 71.7 67.1


Reading Writing Spelling Math 84-85 66.4 66.8 71.1 69.0 85-86 62.2 63.7 69.4 67.9 86-87 67.6 67.9 69.2 72.4


Reading Writing Spelling Math 84-85 66.4 66.8 71.1 69.0 85-86 63.4 64.8 70.4 69.5 86-87 67.6 67.9 69.2 72.4

Inglewood Unified DISTRICT AVERAGE

Reading Writing Spelling Math 84-85 53.2 53.1 65.2 54.4 85-86 53.4 53.0 66.4 54.7 86-87 54.2 55.0 66.7 55.9


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