L.B. School Officials 'Astounded' at State Report Cards : Performance Reports Vary Widely; Low Rankings Given in Some Areas

Times Staff Writer

School district officials here said Thursday that they were "astounded" and "disappointed" by the results of the state Department of Education's first performance reports for public schools that gave the city's high schools grades ranging from very poor to very good.

The performance reports evaluated the city's six high schools using five standards, including: seniors' basic skills test scores, seniors' college board examination scores and the percentage of seniors who have taken four years each of English and history, three years each of math, science and a foreign language and one year of fine arts. The report cards also set goals and timetables for school improvement and compared high school performances statewide.

"We were astounded by the wide range of results among our high schools," Charles C. Carpenter, deputy superintendent for instruction, said in a written statement Thursday. "We are very disappointed. The scores should be higher if they accurately and more completely reflected what students are learning."

Said Acting Research Director Lewis Prilliman: "We think (the report) is probably telling us something, but we're not prepared to make any grand statement yet about what it does tell us."

Low Reading Scores

Among the surprises was the finding that seniors at Millikan High School ranked in the bottom two percentile for reading scores in a basic skills test compared to similar schools throughout the state.

At Lakewood High School, 22.1% of all seniors polled reported taking three or more years of science compared to the state goal of 50% by 1989-90.

Better news was found in the English department. The report cards show a state target of having 80% of all seniors take four or more years of English by 1989-90, and in Long Beach, more than 80% of all seniors already take four years of English, the report card said.

Although the reports make no definite statements about which schools provide a good or a bad education, the results point up strong points and deficiencies in all of those rated, state education officials said.

Performance appraisals for California schools were announced last April by state school Supt. Bill Honig, who was elected in 1982 on a platform of educational reform. Some educators have objected to the idea of a report card, saying that they are not valid indicators of school performance.

In December the state sent report cards to 787 California high schools in an effort to make public education more accountable, education officials said Thursday. The schools will be rated again in three months and then annually every April so that their improvement--or regression--can be measured. Elementary and junior high schools should be graded by February, officials said.

This first report is the base line by which schools will be graded in the future, Susan Lange, spokeswoman for the state Education Department, said Thursday. "The most important thing that has just happened is that we have set targets for improvement," she said. "The targets are what we are focusing on--not what (the schools) are doing right now."

In addition to ranking the schools, the state created five different comparison groups, based on the education level of students' parents. For example, the schools whose students had the best-educated parents were placed in the highest group, so that schools from similar socioeconomic areas can be compared with each other.

Millikan and Avalon high schools were placed in the fourth-highest comparison group. While the reading scores of Millikan seniors taking the California Assessment Proficiency (CAP) test were low enough to rate the school in the second percentile of the group, Avalon was placed in the 88th percentile of the group.

Students who take the CAP test--which measures basic reading and mathematics skills--also answer questions on the exam about what kinds of classes they are enrolled in. The enrollment information on the report card is taken from these tests.

Five of Long Beach's six high schools have received their report cards. Jordan High School's assessment was misplaced, and Lange said another copy has been mailed.

The performance reports included the following results for the 1983-84 school year:

- Percentage of seniors who reported taking three or more years of math: Lakewood, 65.2%; Polytechnic, 76.2%; Millikan, 70.4%; Wilson, 78.5%; Avalon, 68.2%. The state average is 67%; the Education Department's goal is for 75% of all seniors to take three or more years of math by the 1989-90 school year.

- Percentage of seniors who reported taking four or more years of English: Lakewood, 92.3%; Polytechnic, 89.7%; Millikan, 82.2%; Wilson, 83%; Avalon, 95.7%. State average: 73%; 1989-90 goal: 80%.

- Percentage of seniors who reported taking three or more years of science: Lakewood, 22.1%; Polytechnic, 37.2%; Millikan, 23.1%; Wilson, 31.8%; Avalon, 31.8%. State average: 33%; 1989-90 goal, 50%.

- Percentage of correct answers given by seniors in the reading section of the CAP test: Lakewood, 61.6%; Polytechnic, 54.9%; Millikan, 61.3%; Wilson, 64.9%; Avalon, 61.4%. State average, 62.2%; 1989-90 goal: 64.7%.

- Percentage of correct answers given by seniors in the mathematics section of the CAP test: Lakewood, 66.2%; Polytechnic, 59.2%; Millikan, 66.6%; Wilson, 69.1%; Avalon, 71.2%. State average, 67.4%; 1989-90 goal, 69.8%.

- Seniors' scores on the verbal section of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), a college board exam with 800 possible points: Lakewood, 408; Polytechnic, 406; Millikan, 426; Wilson, 420; Avalon, 406. State average, 421; 1989-90 goal, 444.

- Seniors' scores on the mathematics section of the SAT: Lakewood, 478; Polytechnic, 461; Millikan, 471; Wilson, 468; Avalon, 496. State average, 476; 1989-90 goal, 496.

School district officials in Long Beach have spent the last week scrambling to understand and explain some of their schools' poor ratings.

"We . . . have difficulty understanding why our small, rural high school--Avalon--had such a high state test score ranking while an outstanding, large, comprehensive high school--Millikan--had such an unexpectedly low percentile ranking when its scores on other tests are above average," said district spokesman Richard Van Der Laan.

Prilliman said the district has been working in the last year to improve the education offered in Long Beach schools.

"We are working hard, but the population of our district is changing rapidly," he said. "We have enrolled 2,500 limited-English-proficiency students since school began in September."

Not all of the district's high school principals have seen the reports, and several could not be reached for comment. But Polytechnic Principal Robert Ellis said he was surprised about the report cards.

"To be real honest with you, I didn't understand it," said Ellis, who had time only to glance at the appraisal before leaving for vacation. "I got the impression that we didn't look all that good. But I don't know why, because I think we have one of the outstanding schools in the nation."

Even though district officials are still interpreting the results, the schools are "determined to do better on state tests," Van Der Laan said. Since the state tests used as part of the report card were given last year, he said, the district has added four days to the school year, improved attendance, started a mentor teacher program and increased graduation requirements in academic subjects, he said.

"And improving academic achievement has our highest priority for 1985," Van Der Laan said.

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