Sabotage Is Suspected in Orange Glen CAP Scores

Times Staff Writer

Seniors at Escondido’s Orange Glen High School are suspected of “flunking” state academic assessment tests on purpose to express their anger at having off-campus lunch privileges suspended.

The 12th-grade scores dropped precipitously in December tests, a few weeks after the school instituted a locked parking lot policy.

Principal Ed Brand said Monday that he planned to get to the bottom of the so-called sabotage, which, according to several teachers and students, was common knowledge on campus.


Brand said he has asked the state Department of Education to send him individual scores to determine if students purposely marked incorrect answers on the multiple-choice test. The test is designed to assess the effectiveness of the school’s teaching program, not a student’s individual achievement.

Possible Pattern?

Students reported that some of the seniors had “decorated” their answer sheets with Christmas tree designs using random answer spaces as the outline. Others allegedly marked their answers using A, C and D answer spaces to spell out AC/DC, a popular heavy-metal band.

“I have no proof of any of this,” Brand said, “but the state (Department of Education) has promised me the information we need within a week to 10 days.”

He said he doesn’t plan punishment for students found to have participated in the antic, but would work to assure “that a thing like this does not happen again.”

Scores on the California Assessment Program (CAP) test dropped Orange Glen to below the state average in reading and math. In 1987, the high school won a National Secondary School Recognition Award.

Orange Glen administrators angered the seniors last October by ordering the gates to the campus parking lot locked during school hours, maintaining that the measure would cut down on the vandalism that had plagued the parking area last year and at the beginning of the school year in September.


Cut Down on Vandalism

Brand said the locked gates have cut vandalism but admitted that seniors view the action as restricting their rights. Although most students are not allowed to leave campus during school hours, seniors with satisfactory academic records and parental consent had been allowed off campus during lunch breaks.

“I think it was sabotage, pure and simple,” one Orange Glen instructor said. “The scores reflect directly against the school, its teachers and its administrators. The students were angry and they showed their anger.”

Escondido High School, where reading scores dropped but math scores improved, does not suspect a similar revolt.

Jackie Nichols, Escondido High principal, said that “it’s not very likely that our seniors skewed just one part of the CAP tests and not the rest.” Escondido High students don’t have a locked parking area, she said, but students are “monitored” to make sure there are no unauthorized comings and goings during the school day.

Similar sabotage of the CAP test is suspected at West High School in Torrance, where school officials said students apparently were “sending a message” to administrators that the school places too much emphasis on the examination.

Orange Glen has been rocked by a number of tragic incidents during the school year, including an arson, two student suicides and the arrest of three students and a teacher’s aide in connection with the slaying of the aide’s estranged husband.


‘Can’t Get Much Worse’

“Things can’t get much worse,” Brand said. “We must turn things around.”

A state accreditation team was visiting the Escondido school campus when the suspected CAP test scandal became public.

Tom Fong, research analyst with the state Department of Education, said he has received Brand’s request for a review of the CAP tests but admitted that it would not be easy to unmask the culprits.

The state has the raw data from the school CAP tests, he said, but it does not include student names. If the school can trace the test-taker from his or her birth date and other identifying data, “then I guess they can figure out who should have done well but didn’t,” Fong said.

As a last resort, Fong said, “we could send for the actual test books, which are kept by the test firm (Data Recognition Corp.) in Minnesota,” to check if there were actual Christmas tree designs or AC/DC answer patterns.

Even that proof would not change the school’s ranking, Brand said. “We live or die by what those students did in December.”