You might say that the speed bumps in the parking lot at Chico High School cost $66,000. And they weren't even installed by a Defense Department contractor. In fact, it wasn't putting them in that was so expensive -- it was not taking them out. That and a couple of other things. But the story is getting ahead of itself.

Chico is a small town some 90 miles north of Sacramento, where this story began more than a year ago. It was in Sacramento that the state legislature passed a package of education reforms, one of which was the California Assessment Program (CAP).

CAP is an incentive (the word "incentive" is the key) program that grants $66,000 to any state high school that annually tests 93 percent of its graduating seniors in reading, written expression, mathematics and spelling, and shows an improvement in each year's scores.

Now to Chico, and the part about incentive. It shows how smart the kids at Chico High are, even if most of them did score somewhere in the moron percentile on the CAP test.

The seniors at Chico knew about the $66,000 the school would get if they did well on the test. They also knew that if they didn't do well on the test, it would not affect their own grades or college admissions.

So, in the words of school superintendent Robert Jeffries, "They offered to negotiate." According to principal Roger Williams, the four "ringleaders" have good academic records. This was the deal they offered: We take your test, we do well. We earn you $66,000. For our efforts we want some things. We want the speed bumps taken out of the parking lot. We want to smoke on campus. And we want a senior class trip to Santa Cruz.

What's a school to do? They said "no," of course. And then took some precautions. Before forwarding the CAP tests to the state, Chico High pulled the tests taken by the four student ringleaders. Maybe they didn't know about the leaflets the four had circulated on campus, urging all 333 seniors to fail the test.

Two weeks ago, Chico High School got the test results: It had dropped from the top third of the state's high schools to the bottom third. The overall percentile ranking had dropped from 70 percent to somewhere in the teens. In one subject category, Chico High's scores had plummeted from 73 percent to 2 percent. Suddenly, Chico High was $66,000 poorer.

Principal Williams said the four ringleaders were "reprimanded" last week after the scores were revealed but that they reacted with "indifference."

Some might think these high school seniors selfish and inflexible, with petty demands. But Kevin Turcotte, the reporter for the Chico Enterprise-Record who first reported the story, says it is not true that the students demanded the speed bumps be removed from the parking lot -- just lowered.