Monday, July 20, 2009

High school exit exam gets boost as more pass

Here's an upsetting update on the legislation trying to end high-stakes exit-exams. What a shame.


Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, July 9, 2009

The pass rate for the state's high school exit exam inched up in 2009, with special education students and English learners showing the biggest gains, according to statewide results released Wednesday.

The results were only preliminary, however, and included test scores only through March.

With only the partial information in hand, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell nonetheless presented the information to the state Board of Education at its meeting Wednesday to make a political point: The California High School Exit Exam is working. Leave it alone.

Last month, a key committee of state legislators, including longtime critics of the test, voted to eliminate the exam as a graduation requirement, saying it was unfair to require students to pass it given the massive budget cuts proposed for education.

O'Connell vowed to fight to save the exam while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to veto any bill that included elimination of the graduation requirement.

The Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to side with the governor and superintendent in urging the state to retain the requirement, O'Connell said.

The effort to get rid of the exam is pending in the Legislature.

"The results do show that we must continue our efforts to help Latino, African American, English learner, economically disadvantaged, and special education students master these critical skills," O'Connell said Wednesday in a statement.

The exam includes math up to Algebra I and English/language arts at about a 10th-grade level. Students, who first take the exam as sophomores, have eight chances to pass before graduation day and unlimited chances after 12th grade if necessary.

Critics argue the high-stakes test at least should be put on hold.

"When the state is making cuts that could lead to a shorter school year, fewer teachers and larger class sizes, it doesn't seem realistic to expect the same results as before the cuts," said Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Baldwin Vista (Los Angeles County), in a statement following the June committee vote.

As of March, an estimated 47,000 students in the class of 2009 still hadn't passed both the math and English sections of the exam compared with 430,000 who had.

Special education students were required to pass the exam beginning in 2008. This year, 55.2 percent of the 36,400 special education students who took the test had passed by March, up from 52.7 the same time the year before.

English learners also showed gains, with 72 percent of 71,000 test takers passing, up from 70.9 percent.

Local and state results for all exit exam administrations for the last school year will be released in September.

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