Friday, September 04, 2009

Slight improvement in exit exam performance

Slight improvement in exit exam performance
Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, September 3, 2009

(09-02) 19:36 PDT -- More high school students are passing the California High School Exit Exam, a positive trend that could evaporate as funding for remedial test help is siphoned away to pay for other bills, state education officials said Wednesday.

Nearly 80 percent of state sophomores passed each of the English and math sections of the test in the spring, up a couple of percentage points from the last few years, according to the newest round of results.

That still means about 100,000 students in the class of 2011 must pass it to graduate. They will have several opportunities.

Last year, the state budgeted $58 million to provide tutoring and other remedial help to the juniors and seniors who were retaking the test after failing it previously. Yet in February, as the state grappled with the budget crisis, legislators took the strings off the funding, allowing schools the flexibility to spend that money elsewhere.

est help in jeopardy

The move could result in such testing assistance programs being cut or eliminated, state officials said. Without the extra help and focused instruction to help students pass the exit exam, the progress seen this year could falter, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell.

"These gains are incremental, but they are in fact significant," O'Connell said. That upward trend "will indeed be tested this year."

The results released Wednesday showed about 45,000 students from the class of 2009 never passed the exam by graduation day last spring, just shy of 10 percent of 12th-grade enrollment and about the same failure rate as the year before. None were allowed to graduate because they didn't pass the test. It is not clear whether those seniors were also missing credits or courses required for graduation.

any chances to pass

Sophomores from the graduating class of 2011 first took the test last spring. Their pass rate in English was 79 percent this year, up from 77 percent three years ago. In math, the pass rate this year was 80 percent, up 4 percent.

Those who failed can take it up to seven times over the next two years and as many times as necessary after they finish their high school coursework.

The exam includes content through 10th grade English and Algebra I - what O'Connell called a "minimal level of skills."

In San Francisco, where students typically outscore their peers statewide, district officials were scratching their heads over an 87 percent pass rate for the class of 2009, a three-point drop from the year before.

"We're analyzing the results to understand where to focus our support for students who are not passing," Superintendent Carlos Garcia said in a statement.

District officials said they will continue to fund exit exam remediation programs - $472,000 this year, down $26,000 from last year.

etter special ed results

Statewide, special education students who took the test also fared better than previous test takers, with 57 percent passing compared with 55 percent in 2008.

This was the second year special education students were required to pass the test to graduate. All other students have had to pass the exam since 2006.

A new state law, however, exempts special education students from having to pass the exam in the future, at least until an alternative assessment is available or the state Board of Education determines one isn't feasible.

As is the case with virtually all standardized tests, the exit exam results illustrate an ongoing and pervasive achievement gap between the performance of white and Asian students and their black and Hispanic peers.

While the 2009 results showed the gap narrowed, the senior class pass rate was 81 percent for African Americans, 87 percent for Hispanic students, 95 percent for Asians and 96 percent for white students.

igh school exit exam statistics

Class of '08 - % who passed* Class of '09 - % who passed*
All students 90.4 90.6
Females 91.8 91.9
Males 89.0 89.3
Asian 95.7 95.3
Hispanic 86.2 86.6
African American 80.5 81.4
White 96.0 95.9
English learner 73.5 73.6
Economically disadvantaged 85.5 85.6
Special education 54.5 56.6
*Indicates the percentage of students who passed by May of their senior year.

Source: California Department of Education

ample questions

Here is a sampling of questions from the California High School Exit Exam:

1. Solve for n: 2n+3<17

A. n<2; B. n<3; C. n<5; D. n<7

2. Stephanie is reading a 456-page book. During the past 7 days she has read 168 pages. If she continues reading at the same rate, how many more days will it take her to complete the book?

A. 12; B. 14; C. 19; D. 24

3. What are all the possible values of x such that 10|x|=2.5?

A. 0.25 and -0.25; B. 4 and -4; C. 4.5 and -4.5; D. 25 and -25

Answers to the questions above: 1. D; 2. A; 3. A

ore information

Samples: To see more sample questions in both math and English, go to:

Results: For full state and local exit exam results, go to

E-mail Jill Tucker at

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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