Area Schools Generally Score Poorly on First Report Cards

Times Staff Writer

Most Long Beach and Southeast-area high schools scored poorly on their first "report cards" by the state Department of Education.

The evaluations, designed to measure the effectiveness of California's education reform movement, showed that a majority of the area's 34 high schools scored below the state average in most categories, including the number of students taking three and four years of English, math, science and foreign languages. Other factors measured were seniors' basic skills test scores and college board examination scores.

Although the evaluations are called report cards, they consist of numerical listings of students' performance rather than letter grades.

Many local school officials, while disappointed at the results, were quick to question the validity of the reports, which were released recently. Some said the evaluations were based on dated information.

They say some of the figures were collected during the fall of 1983, before the state instituted a series of reforms and schools began to feel the effects of an extra $2 billion pumped into local districts by the Legislature last year.

Others contended the reports favor districts in wealthy neighborhoods, where a majority of students are college-bound, not districts like Compton or Paramount where the bulk of students are minority and poor.

"Most kids in this district are just trying to survive--to some graduation is a long shot, college a dream," said Supt. Richard Caldwell of the Paramount Unified District, which is 77% minority. "So is it fair for those bureaucrats in Sacramento to evaluate us, based on how many many years of math or English our students take? Or even their college entrance exam scores? Those kids are just trying to survive."

State officials said this first report is simply a base line by which schools will be graded in the future.

"Too many districts are caught up in defending how they finished this time," said Susan Lang, a spokeswoman for the state Education Department. "The important thing is how much they improve those numbers, which are simply targets, over the next two to three years.

"There's no question that two years from now the report cards will be much more meaningful," she said.

In Long Beach, where most of the report cards were released two weeks ago, school officials said they were were "astounded" and "disappointed" at the poor marks given students at the city's six high schools.

"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. "We are very disappointed. The scores should be higher if they accurately and more completely reflected what students are learning."

The performance reports have stirred controversy since they were announced last April by state school Supt. Bill Honig, who was elected in 1982 on a platform of educational reform.

To secure more money for California's 1,043 districts, Honig said schools need to be more accountable to the Legislature, which finances 80% of state public educa tion. The first step is the performance reports, which are designed to measure the effect of Honig's educational reforms such as tougher graduation requirements and increases in teacher pay.

Caldwell and others said they believe the report cards are politically motivated, a trade-off between Honig and the Legislature for more money for California schools.

"It's simply another layer of testing dictated by Sacramento," said Caldwell of the 11,000-student Paramount district. "We're inundated with tests. At times it seems that's all we do is give tests.

"Nobody should be afraid of taking a look at themselves, but what do these report cards tell us that we don't already know? Our students are struggling, but they give 100%," he said.

Bill Turner, a consultant in the Office of the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools, said he understands why some school officials, particularly those in low-income districts, are questioning the value of the report cards.

"What difference does it make to a teacher struggling to cope with a class of 35 whether Freddie takes one, two, three or four years of English?" said Turner, who works in the evaluation, attendance and pupil services division of the county office. "The teacher's too busy just trying to teach Freddie to capitalize somebody's name."

In December the state sent report cards to 787 California high schools, and the results were made public in early January.

The schools will be rated again in three months and then annually every April.

At first glance, there would seem to be room for improvement at area high schools.

For example, only four of the 34 high schools--Whitney in Cerritos, California in Whittier, Millikan in Long Beach and La Mirada in La Mirada--scored higher than the state average on the verbal portion of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, a standardized test all college-bound students must take. And only 10 schools tied or scored higher than the state average on the math section of the SAT.

Most schools also lagged behind the state average in requiring students to take extra courses in basic subjects.

For example, at Glenn High School in the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified District, 27% of all seniors polled reported taking three or more years of English compared to the state average of 73%.

In Whittier, only 39% of all seniors at California High said they've taken three or more years of math, compared to the state average of 67%.

And at Lakewood High in Long Beach, 22% of the seniors polled have taken three years of science, compared to the state average of 33%.

Local school officials, however, said reforms are under way, but the changes are being phased in and, in some cases, the impact of tougher graduation requirements, for example, won't be known until this year's freshman class finishes in June, 1988.

In Whittier, school officials this year began requiring students to take a fourth year of English and a third year of math, science and social science.

"But it takes several years for such reforms to bear fruit," said Marty Evans, Whittier's assistant superintendent of educational service.

Despite concerns among local educators about the report card, Turner in the county education office believes the reviews will probably continue.

"If they (the schools) want the state's money, they're going to have to play by the state's rules," he said. "There may be a better way to measure change, but for now this is what we must live with."

Meanwhile, local educators had mixed reactions to the report cards:

Jack DuBois, principal at Long Beach's Jordan High School, which had the lowest average SAT scores of the city's six high schools: "We're not overwhelmed with depression over the results. I like the idea that we have an opportunity to set goals, look ahead with the future in mind. . . . I think we've made a step in the right direction."

Manuel Gallegos, Downey Unified School superintendent: "The method of gathering data we found to be grossly in error. In some cases, students were asked how many hours of homework they have per night, and if they didn't have any the night before, they checked, 'none.' Is that fair to the district?"

Tom Sakalis, superintendent of the El Rancho Unified District: "I think it's a tremendous start for letting us compare (schools)."

Arthur Hobson, a consultant to the Whittier Union High School District, who is reviewing the district's report card: "It's a darn good thing because it will get a lot of peoples' attention. It's going to make a lot of districts stand up and take notice."

Staff writers Maria La Ganga and David Jefferson contributed to this story. A High School Report Card

The state's review of 34 public high schools in the Southeast / Long Beach area

TEST RESULTS COURSE ENROLLMENT History/ SAT SAT Adv Social High Sch Verbal Math Plcmnt Math English Science Science State Av 421 476 9.5 67 73 33 52 ABC UNIFIED DISTRICT Artesia 330 446 2.7 46 91 16 22 Cerritos 414 474 11.7 42 94 17 11 Gahr 380 454 11.4 65 78 16 19 Whitney 438 498 34.8 84 100 36 99 BELLFLOWER UNIFIED DISTRICT Bellflower 369 467 1.1 40 49 38 32 Mayfair 413 489 0.0 53 72 38 46 COMPTON UNIFIED DISTRICT Centennial 293 324 0.0 68 99 27 94 Compton 281 328 0.0 66 91 35 50 Dominguez 279 331 0.8 61 63 21 47 DOWNEY UNIFIED DISTRICT Downey 406 509 2.8 56 37 17 20 Warren 401 491 4.2 63 86 27 50 EL RANCHO UNIFIED DISTRICT El Rancho 369 397 0.0 94 93 37 39 LONG BEACH UNIFIED DISTRICT Avalon 406 496 0.0 68 96 32 23 Jordan 353 417 0.6 68 91 21 18 Lakewood 408 478 2.9 65 92 22 21 Millikan 426 471 4.6 70 82 23 17 Polytechnic 406 461 29.6 76 89 37 22 20 Wilson 420 468 10.7 78 83 32 22 LOS ANGELES UNIFIED DISTRICT Bell 334 399 3.5 65 68 32 15 Hntingtn Pk 365 422 4.1 67 72 18 24 22 So Gate 350 402 5.1 59 93 14 17 LYNWOOD UNIFIED DISTRICT Lynwood NA NA 1.3 90 48 43 17 MONTEBELLO UNIFIED DISTRICT Bell Gdns 341 403 0.0 66 49 18 35 Montebello 349 421 0.0 67 55 12 27 Schurr 405 499 9.2 76 72 18 54 NORWALK-LA MIRADA UNIFIED DISTRICT Glenn 343 413 0.6 48 27 21 22 La Mirada 433 468 1.3 57 42 33 23 Norwalk 372 479 0.0 55 36 26 23 PARAMOUNT UNIFIED DISTRICT Paramount 377 428 0.0 51 75 27 60 WHITTIER UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT California 429 476 4.3 39 91 11 56 La Serna 413 462 6.7 57 92 15 62 Pioneer 383 424 3.1 41 81 13 28 Santa Fe 384 430 1.3 45 71 17 52 Whittier 374 419 1.8 52 93 15 56 S Foreign Fine High Sch Language Arts State Av 22 65 ABC UNIFIED DISTRICT Artesia 15 51 Cerritos 12 48 Gahr 18 44 Whitney 51 54 BELLFLOWER UNIFIED DISTRICT Bellflower 8 85 Mayfair 9 94 COMPTON UNIFIED DISTRICT Centennial 13 80 Compton 20 62 Dominguez 10 67 DOWNEY UNIFIED DISTRICT Downey 9 49 Warren 10 56 EL RANCHO UNIFIED DISTRICT El Rancho 18 62 LONG BEACH UNIFIED DISTRICT Avalon 14 73 Jordan 9 67 Lakewood 19 66 Millikan 14 59 Polytechnic 406 63 Wilson 25 62 LOS ANGELES UNIFIED DISTRICT Bell 15 64 Hntingtn Pk 365 71 So Gate 4 92 LYNWOOD UNIFIED DISTRICT Lynwood 11 61 MONTEBELLO UNIFIED DISTRICT Bell Gdns 12 52 Montebello 10 54 Schurr 18 51 NORWALK-LA MIRADA UNIFIED DISTRICT Glenn 12 71 La Mirada 10 90 Norwalk 11 79 PARAMOUNT UNIFIED DISTRICT Paramount 9 51 WHITTIER UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT California 13 94 La Serna 18 91 Pioneer 8 90 Santa Fe 5 85 Whittier 14 89

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.

The chart, at right, presents selected data from "performance reports" issued on Southeast / Long Beach high schools by the state Department of Education. Since 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 may be found in Sunday's Metro section.

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