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SAT Averages Up Slightly in Most of O.C.

Education: Large gains are seen in Fullerton district and at Los Amigos High School in Fountain Valley. Math scores fall in Orange.

August 30, 2000|TARIQ MALIK and ERIKA I. RITCHIE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Orange County students posted moderate increases in their SAT scores this year, and in at least one district they showed substantial gains over the previous year, the College Board reported Tuesday.

In the Fullerton Joint Union High School District, which has six traditional high schools in Fullerton, La Habra and Buena Park, students earned an average total score of 1108--536 in verbal and 572 in mathematics--up 25 points from scores in the previous school year.

"We're very pleased with the scores and believe it validates the work done by teachers, students and the support of parents to improve the quality of education," said George Giokaris, assistant superintendent for administrative and technology services.

Scores in other districts remained largely the same. In Santa Ana, the average verbal score was 425 and the average math score was 474--much the same as they have been for the past five years. However, about 60% of the district's students who took the SAT are not native English speakers.

Further south, SAT scores held steady at a high level in Irvine Unified, where administrators said they could not be happier with the results. Verbal scores in Irvine averaged 553, no significant difference from last year. Math scores rose 1% to 607.

Latino and other minority students in Irvine also scored higher than state and national averages. "The news is very good here," said Beverly Huff, coordinator for special projects.

The Capistrano Unified School District's average score on the 2000 SAT rose three points, paralleling a four-point increase statewide, test results show. Capistrano Unified's total rose to 1102 this year, up from 1099 in 1999 and 1095 in 1998. "It's modest, but it's moving in the right direction," Supt. James A. Fleming said.

In Orange Unified School District, verbal scores stayed about the same at 527 compared to 528 last year, but math scores dipped considerably, said Phil Morse, administrator for research and assessment. The average math score this year was 527, compared with 553 last year.

Morse could not immediately explain the decrease. "This is something that requires further investigation to pinpoint why," he said.

Morse speculated that the increase in the number of Orange Unified students taking the test this year could have contributed to lower math scores. Overall, 789 students, 44% of the graduating class, took the SAT, up from 727 of 42% of the class last year.

"As more students take the test, it tends to have a deleterious effect on the scores," Morse said.

By contrast, math scores in the Garden Grove Unified School District went up eight points overall. Average verbal scores remained the same, 472, for the third consecutive year.

La Quinta High School in Westminster earned the district's highest average math score at 557, its highest since 1997.

But the most dramatic increase was at Fountain Valley's Los Amigos High School, where the average math score jumped 33 points to 546 and verbal scores improved 12 points to 469.

Also contributing to this report were Times correspondents Chris Ceballos, Angelique Flores, Rebecca Harris, Tami Min and Renee Moilanen.

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