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3rd-Graders Lift Test Scores to 5-Year Highs

November 12, 1987|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

Despite growing numbers of pupils who speak limited English, third-graders in the Glendale Unified School District scored significantly higher than their predecessors on tests in this year's California Assessment Program.

More than 35% of third-grade pupils in the district are classified as limited-English or non-English speaking--a figure that is increasing by 7% a year, said James T. McGlashan, director of testing and evaluation.

Yet, third-grade students this year tallied their best scores since 1982 in all three areas of academic skills--reading, writing and mathematics, McGlashan said.

District officials said the higher scores, in part, are a result of the growing use of computers and high-technology learning programs, both in the schools and at home.

"A lot of students are being impacted by technology and it certainly is showing positive results," said Dave Smith, principal at Dunsmore Elementary School who also oversees the district federal and state-assisted teaching programs.

He said about 75% of the schools are now using computers to help teach basic skills. State tests, he said, show the greatest improvement in math scores district wide, largely because of the computer training.

Cerritos Elementary School, however, which has one of the best improvements in the district in its third-grade math scores, is just beginning to use computer training this year. Yet third-grade students in that school, located in an ethnically mixed neighborhood in south Glendale, have increased their math scores by 114 points over the last five years, according to state results.

Jeannie Flint, principal at Cerritos, said the higher scores are a result of a series of changes, including team-teaching in which students study with peers who are at the same level of achievement, rather than in age groups.

Flint said the school also has begun a series of motivational programs to encourage students and parents to study together. She said 67% of the students at Cerritos speak limited English and the new program helps families learn English quicker by practicing together at home.

Dunsmore Elementary School in La Crescenta led the district for the highest scores for basic academic skills among all third graders. Smith credited the scores there to a switch to a multigrade reading program similar to that at Cerritos, innovative teaching methods and the support of parents.

But the final credit, Smith said, belongs to the pupils. "This was the year that we had a class that really zoomed. It was a once-in-a-lifetime class."

Third graders at Dunsmore improved their scores, which generally range from 100 to 400 points, by 46 to 68 points in the three categories of academic skills. Ranking among the top 10% of third-grade scores in the state, test results at Dunsmore jumped from 317 points in 1986 to 365 points this year in reading; from 356 to 402 in writing; and from 304 to 372 points in mathematics.

The CAP scores also revealed that sixth-grade students in the Glendale district improved skills slightly in writing and math, but dropped in reading. Eighth-graders improved their scores in history, but fell slightly below last year's rating in reading, writing, mathematics and science. Eighth-grade scores, however, still rank higher than state averages, officials said.

District officials said slight fluctuations in scores are not unusual, and may be attributable to higher percentages of limited-English speaking students. In the neighboring La Canada Unified School District, eighth-grade students improved their scores over the previous year's class, according to reported results.

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