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High School 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.

At San Marino High School, scores surged in every category.

"Oh, happy day!" San Marino District Supt. David E. Brown said of the students' performance.

Brown said that the seniors' scores would have been worth $100,000 under the Cash for CAP program. "Bad timing, but we are very pleased," he said.

Brown was not sure why scores had gone up. The students had "test-wiseness" seminars in their English classes before the exam in December, he noted.

He also said that the test and the school's curriculum are better aligned now than in the past.

According to Brown, the school's major problem has been getting the students to take the CAP test seriously. "It's a short test and it's relatively easy," Brown said. It is also a group rather than an individual test, he noted, and, for years, the students' attitude toward it has been, "What a joke!"

"This is not like getting ready for an SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) that could determine your future," he said.

As to why the Class of '87 did so well, Brown speculated: "Maybe they listened to us when we said, 'Take this seriously. This is a reflection on you and the community.' "

Scores were also up across the board in the Pasadena Unified School District. "This is our high point in the last five years," said Bill Bibbiani, director of testing for the district.

Bibbiani noted that scores were up at three out of four district high schools--Blair, Muir and Pasadena. John Marshall Fundamental High School dipped in reading and written expression but gained in math and spelling.

"The thing that impresses me is the consistency of the scores," Bibbiani said. "They are pretty much all up."

Bibbiani said the performance was especially impressive because Pasadena is a diverse urban school district. "The fact that we are where we are despite our diversity is quite an achievement," he said.

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


Mr. Long noticed that the mileage reading in his car was 8,523.4 when he bought some gas. After he traveled 49.3 miles, what was the mileage reading?

A. 857.27 B. 8,572.7 C. 8,474.1 D. 85,727 E. None of these (Correct answer: B)

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



Reading Writing Spelling Math 84-85 58.0 59.8 68.0 66.3 85-86 59.6 61.0 69.8 67.8 86-87 60.5 62.9 70.1 70.2


Reading Writing Spelling Math 84-85 60.7 63.4 70.6 69.1 85-86 61.1 62.0 71.9 68.1 86-87 61.0 64.9 70.3 70.1


Reading Writing Spelling Math 84-85 56.1 57.2 67.1 67.1 85-86 57.2 58.7 68.7 69.2 86-87 58.0 60.3 70.0 69.7


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