Test Scores of California Pupils Show Some Gains

TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

The state's eighth-graders are continuing to make academic gains, according to California Assessment Program results released Monday, but falling test scores for the third- and sixth-graders gave educators some cause for concern.

In tests administered last spring, eighth-graders made across-the-board improvements over the scores students at that grade level had achieved the year before. The statewide average in reading was 256, up 4 points; in math the average went up 5 points to 269; in history and social studies it climbed 6 points to 259, and in science, the average score rose to 267, a 4-point gain.

For third-graders, the statewide average in reading scores slid to 277, down 5 points from last year's 282. Written language scores fell 6 points to 278, while math scores dipped 3 points to 278.

Sixth-graders averaged 262 in reading scores, a 3-point decline; 269 in written language, a drop of 4 points, and 267 in math, down 3 points.

The state also released Monday the average test scores for eighth-graders in the state's larger districts. The figures--which combine all four test areas--included changes from last year and the average change over the last three years. The state average was 263, up 5 points over last year and up 16 since 1986.

The huge Los Angeles Unified School District, comprising 15% of the state's students, averaged 219, showing a one-year growth of 6 points and a three-year growth of 9. While the district remains well below the state average, its gains are nonetheless substantial, said Pat McCabe, administrator of operations for the state CAP program.

"The problems they face are enormous," said McCabe, noting that English is not the native language for about 40% of the district's students. "It's not surprising that things are not going up as fast as we would like."

Among other large districts in Los Angeles County, Alhambra, Arcadia, Bellflower, Lancaster, Lynwood and Walnut Valley showed three-year gains of 26 or more points in eighth-grade scores.

On the other hand, eighth-grade scores have dropped 10 points in three years in Azusa, and Baldwin Park showed no improvement.

Compton's eighth-graders posted the lowest average score of the county's large districts--165. The next-lowest scorers among the county's big districts were Lennox, with 185, and Lynwood, 188.

Bill Honig, state superintendent of public instruction, focused on the statewide eighth-grade gains in pronouncing himself "very, very proud of what has happened."

Noting there has been steady growth by eighth-graders in all areas tested since an intensive effort began in 1986 to beef up junior high school education, Honig said:

"Three quarters of a million junior high school students . . . improved an average of one-half grade for all subjects tested," equivalent to a 25% increase in performance.

"Another way of gauging the magnitude of these improvements is to consider that the average Japanese eighth-grader was approximately two years ahead of the American eighth-grader in math in 1986," Honig said. "We shaved 25% off that gap in three years. If we continue progress at this rate for the next decade, we will close the gap."

The performance of U.S. school graduates has been a source of increasing consternation among many business leaders, who fear Americans are not well prepared to compete in world markets.

The CAP tests have been administered each spring since 1974 to the state's third-, sixth- and eighth-graders. High school seniors take the tests each fall and the results are released in the spring. The scores, which generally range from 100 to 400 points, are used to measure a school's performance rather than that of individual students.

Honig said Monday he hopes the lessons learned from shoring up junior high school education--including curriculum overhaul and increased individual attention to students--can be tailored to making improvements at the lower grade levels. He said he expects an elementary education task force to make its recommendations in about seven months.

Pointing out that the lower grades' achievement levels are still above national norms, Honig said state education officials nonetheless are "trying to get a handle on the reasons for this decline."

Part of the decline can be attributed to the rapidly increasing proportion of students in California who are not proficient in English and to the explosive growth in many schools around the state. While students with limited English proficiency made strong gains over the last three years, they still lag behind those for whom English is the primary language, Honig said.

It is also possible that teachers--bending over backward to avoid a repeat of a cheating scandal that tainted the CAP testing system two years ago--were overly cautious in admonishing students about changing their answers. "We have considerably fewer erasures this year," Honig said, adding that officials did not mean to discourage legitimate wrong-to-right answer erasures.

Additionally, tests at the lower level are somewhat out of date and will be revamped in time for 1991 testing, he said.

NEXT STEP Later this week, the state Department of Education will release the California Assessment Program scores in each of the state's public schools for pupils in the third, sixth and eighth grades. The results will enable parents to compare the scores of their children's school and district with those of other public schools. The Times will publish the scores of local schools.

GRADE 8 AVERAGE SCORES FOR LARGE DISTRICTS

COUNTY NAME OR NUMBER AVERAGE 1-YEAR 3-YEAR DISTRICT NAME TESTED SCORE GROWTH GROWTH State Average 284,948 263 5 16 L.A. County (with LAUSD) 81,519 239 5 11 L.A. County (without LAUSD) 47,355 253 4 12 Alhambra City Elem. 1,044 267 9 28 Arcadia Unified 585 331 3 26 Azusa Unified 629 221 -1 -10 Baldwin Park Unified 993 252 -1 0 Bassett Unified 304 222 8 23 Bellflower Unified 561 254 26 27 Bonita Unified 675 285 12 15 Burbank Unified 805 272 5 19 Charter Oak Unified 405 269 4 19 Claremont Unified 402 297 3 7 Compton Unified 1,534 165 5 9 Covina-Valley Unified 801 267 12 20 Downey Unified 1,023 268 -6 3 East Whittier City Elem. 639 251 8 5 El Monte City School 916 233 11 22 El Rancho Unified 678 211 4 3 Garvey Elem. 645 234 7 25 Glendale Unified 1,512 278 4 1 Glendora Unified 404 299 11 5 Hacienda-La Puente Unified 1,498 241 2 12 Hawthorne Elem. 532 236 8 6 Inglewood Elem. 948 214 7 11 Lancaster Elem. 818 271 3 26 Las Virgenes Unified 630 322 -10 2 Lennox Elem. 419 185 0 16 Long Beach Unified 4,000 244 7 11 Los Angeles Unified 34,164 219 6 9 Lynwood Unified 800 188 -1 35 Monrovia Unified 348 253 -7 21 Montebello Unified 2,008 212 7 5 Mountain View Elem. 584 213 13 -1 Norwalk-La Mirada Unified 1,130 227 2 14 Palmdale Elem. 759 250 -5 9 Palos Verdes Peninsula 658 358 6 16 Paramount Unified 773 197 5 10 Pasadena Unified 1,332 228 3 21 Pomona Unified 1,427 222 4 12 Rowland Unified 1,403 257 1 22 Santa Monica-Malibu 624 278 -12 14 Torrance Unified 1,242 280 1 10 Walnut Valley Unified 851 309 2 33 West Covina Unified 541 256 11 13 Whittier City 585 248 6 16 William S. Hart Union 1,372 295 -5 12 Riverside County 11,698 252 5 20 Alvord Unified 805 251 8 27 Coachella Valley Unified 510 202 9 9 Corona-Norco Unified 1,336 257 -4 17 Desert Sands Unified 871 245 8 26 Hemet Unified School 766 278 8 31 Jurupa Unified 917 239 3 12 Moreno Valley Unified 1,446 268 9 20 Palm Springs Unified 698 243 6 19 Riverside Unified 1,826 261 3 14 San Bernardino County 16,512 258 10 19 Alta Loma School Dist. 782 277 16 16 Apple Valley Unified 650 277 25 NA Barstow Unified School 418 255 22 31 Chino Unified 1,434 260 2 11 Colton Joint Unified 942 244 8 20 Fontana Unified 1,422 247 17 39 Hesperia Unified 729 243 16 NA Morongo Unified 534 275 21 20 Ontario-Montclair Elem. 1,561 234 -1 7 Redlands Unified 958 296 7 28 Rialto Unified 1,116 247 12 19 Rim of the World Unified 364 289 17 26 San Bernardino City 2,227 245 13 27 Upland Unified 757 288 -2 14 Yucaipa Joint Unified 383 293 10 11 Ventura County 7,269 280 4 24 Conejo Valley Unified 1,287 330 2 39 Hueneme Elem. 630 254 -1 11 Oxnard Elem. 925 238 10 28 Pleasant Valley Elem. 577 300 16 14 Simi Valley Unified 1,258 287 4 27 Ventura Unified 1,001 292 1 33 Orange County 21,927 287 6 18 Anaheim Union High 2,922 267 2 8 Capistrano Unified 1,525 309 8 31 Fountain Valley Elem. 696 310 7 21 Fullerton Elem. 979 275 -1 5 Garden Grove Unified 2,356 253 2 18 Huntington Beach City 645 317 2 13 Irvine Unified 1,359 330 9 35 Los Alamitos Unified 445 325 11 21 Newport-Mesa Unified 909 296 3 22 Ocean View Elem. 896 303 12 27 Orange Unified 1,633 293 12 26 Placentia Unified 1,285 307 10 23 Saddleback Valley Unified 1,555 326 6 29 Santa Ana Unified 2,042 239 7 7 Tustin Unified 654 294 5 6 Westminster Elem. 645 263 7 16 San Diego County 22,344 279 3 17 Cajon Valley Union Elem. 1,315 286 -1 13 Carlsbad Unified 415 293 -14 22 Escondido Union Elem. 1,015 288 10 16 Fallbrook Union Elem. 424 301 17 21 La Mesa-Spring Valley 1,075 287 7 18 Oceanside City Unified 810 245 8 13 Poway Unified 1,570 329 0 21 Ramona City Unified 311 280 8 33 San Diego City Unified 6,835 270 2 16 San Dieguito Union High 950 339 -11 29 San Marcos Unified 453 298 5 30 Santee Elem. 675 302 8 23 Sweetwater Union High 3,581 257 7 17 Vista Unified 909 272 6 14

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