County Seniors’ Verbal SAT Scores Down From ’89 : Education: This year’s students still did better than state and national averages, and for the most part improved on last year’s math scores.


Average scores in the verbal portion of the 1990 Scholastic Aptitude Test in most Orange County unified and high school districts dropped from last year, but high school seniors for the most part did better in math than their 1989 counterparts, according to figures released by the school districts Tuesday.

Although average verbal scores dropped in seven of the 13 districts for which figures were available, all but three of the Orange County districts scored higher than state and national averages on the 1990 SAT. Math scores were up in seven of the 13 districts reporting, with 10 districts topping the 500 mark and all but one surpassing the state and national averages.

Verbal scores in Orange County ranged from an average of 348 in the Santa Ana Unified School District to 457 in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District; the statewide average was 419 and the national average was 424. In math, average scores in the county ranged from 449 in Santa Ana to 543 in the Irvine Unified School District; they were 484 for the state and 476 for the nation.

Fifteen school districts in Orange County administered the 1990 SAT, which is scored on a scale of 200 to 800. Only Capistrano Unified, Huntington Beach Union High School, Los Alamitos Unified, Newport-Mesa Unified and Orange Unified districts reported increases in scores on the verbal portion of the test. (Scores were not available Tuesday for the Fullerton Joint Union High School and Placentia Unified school districts.)


In the Capistrano Unified district, the average verbal score was up 10 points over 1989--the county’s biggest gain on that portion of the test. District officials attributed the gain to greater emphasis on SAT review courses and increased enrollment in advanced-placement classes.

“We’re paying more attention to the SAT,” said William Eller, the district’s assistant superintendent for instructional operations. “We have an elective course called SAT Review through our college and career planning center, and we also have SAT review software in our library that students can use during free periods.”

The average verbal score in the Huntington Beach Union High School District was up just one point over 1989, but Dorothy Crutcher, the district’s director of testing and guidance services, said the gain was significant because there was a 4% increase this year in the number of students who took the exam. Crutcher and officials in other school districts said average scores usually decrease as the number of students who take the exam increases.

In districts where the average verbal score fell below the state average, officials attributed the lower scores to an increasing number of seniors who speak English as a second language.


David Steinle, assistant superintendent for the educational services division of the Anaheim Union High School District, noted that while his district’s average verbal score was 408, the average score in math--where language does not present as great a barrier--was 511, 27 points above the state average.

“We’re pleased at the combined score,” Steinle said, pointing out that the district’s combined average score of 919 surpassed the state average of 903. “We’ve had a significant increase over the state and the nation. They’ve both declined, while we’ve increased.”

The Orange County figures were released a day after the College Board, which sponsors the SAT, released scores showing nationwide drops in the verbal section. College Board President Donald M. Stewart called for students to “pay less attention to video games and music videos” and said he feared reading “is in danger of becoming a lost art” among American students.

Times correspondent Len Hall contributed to this report.



AVERAGE SCORE 1989 1990 District Verbal Math Verbal Math Anaheim Union High School 408 504 408 511 Brea-Olinda Unified 454 539 447 524 Capistrano Unified 446 492 456 504 Fullerton Joint Union High School NA NA NA NA Garden Grove Unified 395 498 384 491 Huntington Beach Union H.S. 438 521 439 528 Irvine Unified 457 536 451 543 Laguna Beach Unified 459 500 446 489 Los Alamitos Unified 445 517 461 532 Newport-Mesa Unified 453 535 457 534 Orange Unified 424 502 429 507 Placentia Unified NA NA NA NA Saddleback Valley Unified 451 512 444 512 Santa Ana Unified 355 445 348 449 Tustin Unified 445 526 441 530

Source: Individual school districts