Statewide, 79% of last year's 12th-grade class showed adequate to above-average writing skills, while 19% showed minimal ability, according to results of a new state writing test released Monday.
In the Los Angeles Unified School District, last year's seniors scored well below the state average. The highest-scoring district in the state was San Marino Unified in Los Angeles County.
The test also found a correlation between scores and the amount of reading, homework and television viewing that a student did on average on a daily basis.
"Good writing starts with good instruction," California Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig said, "and these test results show a direct connection between quality writing programs and performance."
Last year was the first time that the state gave high school seniors the writing test, called the Direct Writing Assessment. Unlike earlier measures of writing ability, which emphasized multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank exercises, the new exam requires students to actually write sentences and paragraphs. The test covered four types of essays, including autobiographical, evaluative, interpretive and reflective writing. Test questions were not made available.
Eighth-graders have taken similar tests for the last two years. A writing exam is being developed for sixth-graders.
Each exam was scored by a panel of writing teachers on a scale of 1 to 6, with 6 considered exemplary and 1 minimal achievement. State officials then translated the scores into a scaled ranking running from about 100 to 400. Individual student scores are not provided, but the scaled rankings allow comparisons between districts.
Los Angeles Unified students had an average score of 204, 46 points below the statewide average. "It means we have to improve," Floraline Stevens, head of the district's research and evaluation department.
Statewide analyses by the Department of Education showed that students were most adept at writing autobiographical essays, with 53% scoring 4 or better. They showed the most difficulty with reflective essays, with only 33% scoring 4 or higher.
In addition, female students were far better writers than males, scoring an average of 270 points, the state results showed. Males scored an average of 231.
The state data also showed a connection between scores and time spent reading, doing homework and watching television. Students who reported spending at least one hour a day reading in class scored at least 16 points above the state average, while those who said they spent at least two hours a day on homework scored 38 points above the state average. Students who reported viewing television for more than two hours a day tended to score below the state average.
GRADE 12 WRITING ASSESSMENT SCORES, 1988-89
The California Department of Education has released scores from the first 12th-grade writing exam, which was administered to 223,912 seniors last year.
Below are scores for school districts in Los Angeles County. The first column shows the scaled score, which can range from about 100 to 400. This score allows comparisons between districts and with the state average of 250.
The second column shows how well a district scored in comparison to districts that are similar in socioeconomic background and in the number of limited-English-speaking students. A ranking below 50 means that a district scored in the bottom half of those with similar student populations, and above 50 places a district in the top half of similar districts. A ranking of 44, for example, means that 56% of similar schools scored higher and 43% scored lower.
Statewide average: 250
LOS ANGELES COUNTY DISTRICTS SCALED SCORE RELATIVE RANK ABC Unified 252 44 Alhambra City High 234 79 Antelope Valley Union High 260 64 Arcadia Unified 273 23 Azusa Unified 207 42 Baldwin Park Unified 243 97 Bassett Unified 177 25 Bellflower Unified 237 54 Beverly Hills Unified 303 58 Bonita Unified 268 70 Burbank Unified 281 88 Centinela Valley Union High 197 23 Charter Oak Unified 211 2 Claremont Unified 300 56 Compton Unified 164 13 Covina-Valley Unified 246 58 Culver City Unified 220 8 Downey Unified 255 60 Duarte Unified 225 57 El Monte Union High 205 51 El Rancho Unified 231 87 El Segundo Unified 265 38 Glendale Unified 271 72 Glendora Unified 279 51 Hacienda La Puente Unified 248 61 Inglewood Unified 185 6 La Canada Unified 337 90 Las Virgenes Unified 317 78 Long Beach Unified 223 37 Los Angeles County Schools 341 95 Los Angeles Unified 204 27 Lynwood Unified 189 38 Monrovia Unified 206 23 Montebello Unified 198 46 Norwalk-La Mirada Unified 204 22 Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified 323 84 Paramount Unified 205 57 Pasadena Unified 231 22 Pomona Unified 213 60 Rowland Unified 252 71 San Marino Unified 354 97 Santa Monica-Malibu Unified 285 58 South Bay Union High 287 55 South Pasadena Unified 292 43 Temple City Unified 267 48 Torrance Unified 267 45 Walnut Valley Unified 287 77 West Covina Unified 237 29 Whittier Union High 253 83 William S. Hart Union High 283 69