By Dana Hull | Mercury News
About 9 in 10 students from the Class of 2008 have passed the California High School Exit Exam, according to data released by the state this morning. But thousands more are still struggling to master the test and earn their high school diploma.
This year marks the first time that special education students are required to take and pass the exit exam. Slightly more than half of special education students - 53.8 percent - in the Class of 2008 had passed the exit exam as of May.
There are more than 468,000 students in the Class of 2008; of those about 10 percent are special education students. The vast majority of California's special education students have learning disabilities such as dyslexia.
"Parents of kids with disabilities are horrified by the exit exam, and they are more horrified now that we have the statistics," said Sid Wolinsky of Disability Rights Advocates, a Berkeley-based law firm that sued the state over concerns that the exit exam is discriminatory. "Dyslexia is a killer on tests, even for students who are very bright. If you are dyslexic, on a multiple choice test the numbers literally float on the page." California high school students first take the two-part English and Math exit exam in the 10th grade. The English Language portion of the exam includes 79 multiple-choice questions and a writing essay; the math portion of the exam includes 92 multiple-choice questions. Students who fail the exit exam as sophomores have multiple opportunities to retake the test until they pass it.
Statewide, about 78 percent of all 10th graders passed the math portion of the exit exam on the first try. In Santa Clara County, the figure was higher, at 85 percent. On the English portion of the test, 79 percent of 10th graders passed statewide while 84 percent of Santa Clara County students passed it.