Valley SAT Scores on Par With Rest of California

Times Staff Writer

Test scores for college-bound students in the San Gabriel Valley this year were about average for the state as a whole, a state survey shows, with students in wealthy areas performing the best and pupils in low-income areas performing most poorly.

Top scores in the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) among valley schools, for example, were posted by students from the affluent San Marino and Claremont attendance areas, while the lowest scores were recorded in the poorer Pomona Unified School District.

In districts with high concentrations of Asian immigrants--Alhambra, South Pasadena and San Marino--math scores were uniformly above average, while verbal scores were below average in the Alhambra district and showed a slight decline in San Marino.

Overall, valley school administrators gave varying reasons for the highs and lows in scoring. Low verbal scores were blamed largely on higher concentrations of non-English speaking minorities, unfamiliarity with test-taking techniques, and a basic reluctance among students to read. High verbal scores were attributed to a strong emphasis on writing skills in all subjects.

Jack R. Rose, assistant principal at San Marino, said that verbal scores there have shown a gradual decline over the last decade. He said the drop may be caused by an increase in the number of students tested and the fact that most of the students are tested in their junior year. Ten years ago, he said, most students taking the test were seniors.

"I'm not suggesting students were smarter 10 years ago than they are today," Rose said. "I think their orientation is different. Our students just don't read (today). Talk to kids, ask them what they've read lately--not much. You ask the kids in San Marino, a more affluent neighborhood, and you expect more. But they're just like other kids. It's the nature of our media age."

Although math scores at San Marino were the highest of the valley schools surveyed, verbal scores were only a little better than average, dropping six points from last year on the test scale which runs from a low of 200 points to a high of 800. Rose said several factors could account for the decline in verbal scores, but that a heavier concentration of Asians who speak English as a second language has contributed to lower reading and writing scores. But Rose said the new Asian population also has raised overall math scores on the SATs.

San Marino's overall math score increased 16 points over last year's score, Rose said.

Students at Alhambra High School ranked fourth in math among the valley's 45 high schools, but dropped to 33rd in verbal skills. In the past decade, the Alhambra district's Asian population has more than tripled to 42% of the student population.

Meanwhile, at Garey High School in Pomona, the valley school that scored lowest on the verbal portion of the test, Principal James E. Taylor said one-third of the students are listed by the state as limited English speakers and most of those are Latino.

Taylor said low SAT scores do not necessarily mean poor performance in college.

"Some who don't score high in the SATs will do quite well in college," Taylor said. He also said socioeconomic background can have a strong effect on test-taking.

"People from other countries who are not highly educated are really are not test-wise," he said. "They don't know how to take tests."

Taylor said that although Garey holds SAT preparation seminars, many students of poorer families do not have time to attend.

At Claremont High School, students scored the highest of any valley school on the verbal part of the test. The school's associate principal for academic affairs, James Martin, said a new writing program was responsible.

He said "power writing," developed by a Los Angeles writing professor in 1968, was introduced last year and has resulted in a 9-point jump in overall verbal scores.

Martin said every teacher at the high school, including physical education, science and mathematics teachers, was trained to use the "power" method of writing. He said each instructor used writing in class as often as possible; for example, math teachers asked their students to describe their calculations, and science teachers required students to use complete sentences in lab reports.

The method, which associates paragraph and sentence structure with numerical values, was developed by Professor J. E. Sparks, a writing specialist who teaches a writing instruction course for teachers at UCLA.

"Kids have a better concept of numbers than they do of terminology," Sparks said. "We throw out a lot of terms in education without really explaining them. Whereas, every kid who comes to school can count to three. If a kid can do that, he has my program licked."

Sparks' method gives a numerical value of 1 to a topical sentence or group of sentences, 2 for a major supporting detail, and 3 for minor details. He said students are better able to make logical connections in their writing using this method.

Sparks said that writing problems have reached epidemic proportions in the nation over the past two to three decades, but that recent evidence suggests the trend is reversing itself. "Now that the nation is appalled at students coming out of schools, I see some upward movement finally," Sparks said.

A High School Report Card The state's review of 45 public high schools in the San Gabriel Valley

TEST RESULTS COURSE SAT SAT Advanced High School Verbal Math Placement Math English Science State Av 421 476 9.5 67 73 33 ALHAMBRA CITY and HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT Alhambra 381 500 16.5 62 70 36 Keppel 326 469 5.2 59 66 20 San Gabriel 377 467 8.3 61 80 32 ARCADIA UNIFIED DISTRICT Arcadia NA NA 24.2 78 93 33 AZUSA UNIFIED DISTRICT Azusa 417 455 0.0 59 55 49 Gladstone 387 438 0.0 43 62 39 BALDWIN PARK UNIFIED DISTRICT Baldwin Park 392 458 0.0 69 92 12 Sierra Vista 341 395 0.0 54 96 19 BASSETT UNIFIED DISTRICT Bassett 325 381 0.0 57 50 11 BONITA UNIFIED DISTRICT Bonita NA NA 8.7 61 95 29 San Dimas NA NA 0.0 58 72 20 CHARTER OAK UNIFIED DISTRICT Charter Oak 380 484 0.4 49 61 18 Royal Oak 428 467 4.3 57 64 11 CLAREMONT UNIFIED DISTRICT Claremont 458 506 0.0 79 90 55 COVINA VALLEY UNIFIED DISTRICT Covina 427 452 5.1 46 76 24 Northview 391 446 0.8 47 59 12 South Hills 410 497 12.9 67 82 21 DUARTE UNIFIED DISTRICT Duarte 353 420 0.0 36 63 34 EL MONTE UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT Arroyo NA NA 0.3 47 63 16 El Monte NA NA 0.0 41 68 17 Mtn View NA NA 0.0 45 57 14 Rosemead NA NA 0.0 57 59 19 GLENDORA UNIFIED DISTRICT Glendora 438 485 4.6 75 67 36 HACIENDA-LA PUENTE UNIFIED DISTRICT La Puente 367 421 0.0 46 61 27 Los Altos 422 499 5.4 62 78 30 Wilson 413 502 3.7 63 74 29 Workman 361 403 4.5 58 48 28 MONROVIA UNIFIED DISTRICT Monrovia 442 446 5.6 56 77 28 PASADENA UNIFIED DISTRICT Blair 407 489 5.8 69 94 28 Marshall Fnd. 402 466 9.0 88 91 32 72 Muir 406 448 4.4 81 82 25 Pasadena 394 433 1.4 84 90 20 Pasadena Alt. NA NA 0.0 71 33 17 POMONA UNIFIED DISTRICT Ganesha 343 385 0.0 73 91 58 Garey 318 395 0.0 68 65 56 Pomona 359 413 0.0 66 93 41 ROWLAND UNIFIED DISTRICT Nogales NA NA 1.1 60 96 30 Rowland NA NA 5.2 59 93 44 SAN MARINO UNIFIED DISTRICT San Marino 430 549 34.8 86 89 36 SOUTH PASADENA UNIFIED DISTRICT So Pasadena 423 486 25.8 83 94 61 TEMPLE CITY UNIFIED Temple City 402 474 1.3 55 74 26 WALNUT VALLEY UNIFIED DISTRICT Walnut 396 456 5.0 32 NA NA Diamond Bar 386 453 17.2 NA NA NA WEST COVINA UNIFIED DISTRICT Edgewood 419 475 10.6 56 70 12 W. Covina 436 479 5.4 63 75 15 ENROLLMENTS History/ Social Foreign Fine High School Science Language Arts State Av 52 22 65 ALHAMBRA CITY and HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT Alhambra 21 18 65 Keppel 16 18 73 San Gabriel 22 32 84 ARCADIA UNIFIED DISTRICT Arcadia 50 22 92 AZUSA UNIFIED DISTRICT Azusa 43 17 68 Gladstone 56 8 79 BALDWIN PARK UNIFIED DISTRICT Baldwin Park 61 8 40 Sierra Vista 50 8 47 BASSETT UNIFIED DISTRICT Bassett 28 5 65 BONITA UNIFIED DISTRICT Bonita 59 16 52 San Dimas 36 12 56 CHARTER OAK UNIFIED DISTRICT Charter Oak 19 12 67 Royal Oak 9 26 64 CLAREMONT UNIFIED DISTRICT Claremont 24 38 69 COVINA VALLEY UNIFIED DISTRICT Covina 56 12 62 Northview 54 13 53 South Hills 49 28 68 DUARTE UNIFIED DISTRICT Duarte 9 11 57 EL MONTE UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT Arroyo 21 8 58 El Monte 8 5 59 Mtn View 11 14 59 Rosemead 20 14 57 GLENDORA UNIFIED DISTRICT Glendora 22 12 63 HACIENDA-LA PUENTE UNIFIED DISTRICT La Puente 15 5 54 Los Altos 24 8 53 Wilson 32 19 48 Workman 22 12 51 MONROVIA UNIFIED DISTRICT Monrovia 39 23 56 PASADENA UNIFIED DISTRICT Blair 94 19 65 Marshall Fnd. 402 28 57 Muir 68 27 60 Pasadena 78 24 58 Pasadena Alt. 20 0 67 POMONA UNIFIED DISTRICT Ganesha 24 12 94 Garey 30 7 88 Pomona 21 8 84 ROWLAND UNIFIED DISTRICT Nogales 14 10 58 Rowland 14 14 50 SAN MARINO UNIFIED DISTRICT San Marino 22 54 84 SOUTH PASADENA UNIFIED DISTRICT So Pasadena 39 43 69 TEMPLE CITY UNIFIED Temple City 38 15 70 WALNUT VALLEY UNIFIED DISTRICT Walnut 43 NA NA Diamond Bar NA NA NA WEST COVINA UNIFIED DISTRICT Edgewood 10 17 65 W. Covina 8 29 50

SAT VERBAL: Average score among students taking the Scholastic Achievement Test college entrance examination. Results range from 200 to 800. SAT MATH: Average score among students taking the Scholastic Achievement Test college entrance examination. Results range from 200 to 800. ADVANCED PLACEMENT: Percentage of students who passed Advanced Placement examinations this year with a score of 3 or above. COURSE ENROLLMENTS: Percentage of students enrolled in classes in particular subject areas: math for three years, English for four years, science for three years, social science for four years, foreign language for three years, fine arts for one year.

Chart at right presents selected data from "performance reports" issued on San Gabriel Valley high schools by the state Department of Education. Because this is the first such "report card" on schools, the figures represent base line information for comparison in following years. Similar data on schools in the Los Angeles Unified District is in today's Metro section.

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