California Assessment Program scores for eighth-graders in Orange County remained the same or dropped slightly in most districts from 1989 to 1990, but an overall four-year trend shows eighth-graders doing significantly better in reading, math, history and science, according to figures that were to be released today.
For pupils in the third and sixth grades, reading and math scores remained virtually the same in the past year but showed a sharp improvement over six years. Third-grade average reading scores were up 2 points over 1989 but showed an 11-point gain over 1984 scores. Average math scores for third-graders were up 7 points over last year and 14 points over 1984.
Among sixth-graders, reading scores dropped a point from 1989 but rose 13 points in the last six years. Math scores were up 3 points over 1989 and 11 points over 1984. Changes in the county over one and six years were comparable to changes statewide, where average reading scores were up 7 points among third-graders and 12 points among sixth-graders since 1984. Math scores statewide were up 9 points for both grades during the same period.
Although the 1989-90 countywide average score of 287 for the CAP tests administered last spring was the same as in 1988-89 among eighth-graders, it was 18 points higher than the 1985-86 average score, or "an equivalent of about half a grade level higher," according to state Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig.
Among the most significant gains in the county was that of the Capistrano Unified School District, which posted a 31-point gain over four years and boosted its average eighth-grade score to 309, the highest average among the 25 largest districts in the state.
William Eller, assistant superintendent of instructional operations at Capistrano Unified, attributed the gain to improvements in the district's writing assessment curriculum.
"It's an indication of what we've been doing with the curriculum," Eller said. "Writing is the most difficult of all skills. It shows that a
kid that can write well, can read and can think and can solve and analyze problems. It's an encouraging trend for us."
Statewide, the average score for eighth-graders in 1990 was 264, a 1-point gain over last year and 17 points above the average 1986 score of 247.
Two other county districts--Orange Unified and Garden Grove Unified--also posted significant increases among the state's 25 largest districts. Scores in Orange went up from an average of 267 in 1986 to 285 in 1990--an 18-point gain--and average scores in Garden Grove rose 25 points over the same five years, from 235 to 260.
"Our scoring," Garden Grove district spokesman Alan Trudell said, "can be attributed to the alignment of our curriculum to the state framework, as well as the increased emphasis during the past four years on reading across the curriculum and writing in all content areas. Although the eighth-grade CAP test is multiple choice, by stressing reading and writing in the classroom we increased (students') ability to think analytically."
Overall, 14 of the 16 largest school districts in the county had double-digit increases in eighth-grade CAP scores over four years, including 29-point gains in the Fountain Valley, Ocean View and Saddleback Valley Unified districts and a 35-point jump in the Irvine Unified district.
Of the county's 16 largest districts, only Santa Ana Unified posted a drop in average eighth-grade scores over four years. Average scores there decreased from 232 to 227 over five years--including a 12-point drop from 1989 to 1990.
Santa Ana was not alone in seeing a drop in eighth-grade test scores from 1989 to 1990. Eight of the 16 districts posted lower test scores this year, with three others reporting no gain. Just five districts posted increases in average scores over the last year, with the highest gain amounting to just 8 points. This was in the Fountain Valley School District.
The news was not all bad for Santa Ana, however. Among third-graders, reading scores--although showing no change from 1989 to 1990--were up 24 points since 1984, and average math scores were up 10 points from last year and 21 points in the last six years. For sixth-graders, reading was down 2 points from 1989, but up 13 points from 1984. Math scores were up 2 points over last year and 6 points in the last six years.
Diane Thomas, a spokeswoman for the district, said the drop among eighth-graders may be partly attributable to an influx in recent years of older students with limited knowledge of English.
District researchers, administrators and principals will meet to try to pinpoint other causes of low test scores, she said.
Scores for third- and sixth-graders in other county districts varied widely. In the La Habra City district, third-grade reading scores jumped 28 points from last year, to an average of 330, and 45 points from 1984. Third-grade math scores jumped from 309 in 1989 to 339 this year and soared 63 points from the 1984 average score.