Students in County Fare Well on State Tests

Times Staff Writer

Elementary and junior high schools in San Diego County have met or exceeded state performance targets for measuring educational improvements in greater numbers than public schools statewide, California schools Supt. Bill Honig said in data released today.

The performance targets are based on reading and math standardized test scores for grades three, six and eight under the California Assessment Program, the major annual measure of the state’s educational pulse.

At grade three, 70% of all San Diego County schools--and 74% of San Diego city schools--ranked in the top category of Honig’s measurements, contrasted with 56.5% of all California schools.


At grade six, 73% of all county schools and 81% of city schools were at the top, contrasted with 63.7% of California schools. And, at grade eight, 75.6% of county schools, 76% of city schools and 69% of schools statewide were in the top category.

Judged by Improvements Made

The state Department of Education set goals for all schools to meet in each of the three grades, using a complex series of criteria. In essence, schools were ranked according to how much improvement they have shown on CAP tests between a 1983-84 base year--when the push for school reform began--and 1987-88, the latest year for which scores are available.

Schools could meet the targets in two ways:

- Those with traditionally high CAP scores could compare their four-year test results to those of schools with students having similar socioeconomic backgrounds. This is the so-called relative ranking developed by Honig, where schools are ranked with other schools having similar composite indexes consisting of the educational levels of parents, the English fluency of students, the rate of student turnover during a school year and the number of families receiving government assistance.

If the school ranked in the top quarter of its comparison group, then it placed in the top performance category.

- Those with traditionally poor test scores could earn the top rank by showing greater growth in their CAP scores than the average statewide growth targets set by joint committees from Honig’s department, individual state school districts and universities. Those committees set a growth of 12 points in the average of a school’s CAP reading and math scores between 1983-84 and 1987-88. If a school met or exceeded that growth, it made the highest ranking.

A school meeting only a two-year score increase of 6 points was placed in category 2. Those schools meeting neither the growth nor relative ranking based on high scores were placed in the bottom two categories, 3A or 3B.


Some schools met both standards for achieving in the top category.

“The philosophy is that all schools should either be performing at a high level or making rapid growth,” Honig said in prepared remarks.

Met Standards Despite Obstacles

As an example, Hamilton Elementary in East San Diego has the area’s highest turnover in students, a large English-as-a-second-language population and crowding. Its CAP scores have been among the district’s lowest in recent years. Yet Hamilton showed an 18-point gain in its CAP results, and its average score of 261 placed the school in the top 20% of similar schools with high numbers of welfare students and mobility.

In contrast, Jerabek Elementary in Scripps Ranch is San Diego city’s top school in socioeconomic rank and in academic performance. But it placed in the highest category both by showing a 38-point gain and, with an average score of 363, standing in the top 12% of schools with upper middle-class indexes.

Ideally, schools want both high average scores and high relative rankings. But educators believe overall that districts and schools with relative scores in the top quarter of comparison groups deserve gold stars because such results mean they are performing better than schools in similar communities elsewhere.

Some educators caution that school performance should not be based on standardized tests alone because such tests emphasize rote learning. But they also defend CAP as less egregious because it is designed by teachers and because it has been revamped to emphasize more problem-solving and comprehension skills.

Under CAP, results are not reported for individual students, since each student takes only a small portion of a total CAP test and may answer more questions in one skill area than another. But across an entire school or district, enough students take a sufficient number of all parts of a test to allow an accurate assessment.



MET 4-YR. MET 2-YR. MET NEITHER GROWTH OR GROWTH GOAL GROWTH NOR SCORE GOALS SCORE GOALS Grade 3 SD Unified 74.3% 5.9% 19.8% Countywide 70.0 5.3 24.7 California 56.5 7.3 36.2 Grade 6 SD Unified 80.8% 2.6% 16.7% Countywide 72.7 5.0 22.3 California 63.7 7.5 28.9 Grade 8 SD Unified 76.2% NA 23.8% Countywide 75.6 NA 24.4 California 69.0 NA 31.0

Percentages show how county schools performed in relation to goals set by the state. Goals are based on scores in the California Assessment Program of standardized testing.

Source: California State Department of Education