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State Puts Century High on Notice

Education: Auditors will visit the Santa Ana school because it hasn't met academic targets for four years. A takeover is possible but unlikely.

September 26, 2002|DANIEL YI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Auditors from the California Department of Education will visit Santa Ana's Century High School next week, a prelude to a possible state takeover of the struggling campus for its failure to meet academic targets for four consecutive years.

A takeover of the school is unlikely, state education officials said. Auditors will discuss steps to shore up student achievement before taking such drastic action.

"There are a range of sanctions that can be considered," said Nicole Winger, a spokeswoman for the state education department. "This is just to let the school know 'you've been flagged.' "

Century is among 11 schools in nine districts statewide that will be audited this year.

The yearly reviews are conducted under Title I of federal law, which provides about $9 billion a year in funding to disadvantaged schools, but also demands steady improvement in academic scores.

Last year, 13 schools, 10 of them in the Los Angeles Unified School District, were targeted.

Officials at the Santa Ana high school could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

A district representative said state officials would first meet with district administrators next week and then with the school staff.

"The school has already turned some significant corners," said district Supt. Al Mijares. "The efforts that are being pursued right now are consistent with what is necessary for a school like Century."

Mijares said the district has already replaced the school's administration, including the principal, with interim leadership.

Century High School has some of the poorest standardized test scores in the state.

Less than 12% of its students scored as proficient or higher in the state's English language standards test this year, and less than a quarter scored at or above the national average on reading tests.

The school also faces challenging odds; more than half its 2,700 students are not fluent in English.

Last year, the district narrowly missed its Academic Performance Index target set by the state. The index, which measures improvement, is a formula that relies on test scores and other measures.

In 2001, Century's API score was 492, while the state set 800 as the target. Every year schools are supposed to get closer to that number.

Century's score met its requirement for the school as a whole, but the state also mandates that subgroups, such as minorities and low-income students, meet individual targets. All subgroups in Century did, except for one. Asian American students had to meet a group score of 592. They scored 587.

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