Breezing through exit exam

GLENDALE — More than 86% of Glendale 10th-graders passed the state high school exit exam on the first try, according to the latest figures released Tuesday.

While students can take the two-part English and math test until their senior year, the first try in 10th grade is used as the main benchmark. Seniors must pass the California High School Exit Exam in order to get their diplomas.

Among Glendale Unified School District sophomores, 86% passed the English portion of the exam, while 90% passed the math section, according to the state Department of Education.

The figures were in line with results from recent years.

Roughly one-third of students who do not pass as a sophomore go on to pass the exam in their junior or senior years.

“I’m very pleased to know we are getting good scores in the 10th grade,” Glendale Unified School District Board of Education President Mary Boger said.

“We find that those students who have still not passed the [exam] tend to be our English-language learners, who have not been with us long enough to be proficient in English.”

Burbank scores improved slightly compared to last year, with 90% of 10th-graders passing the English section of the exam, and 80% passing the math portion, representing a 1% increase in both categories.

While every student must pass the exam to earn a diploma, a recent state budget agreement exempts students with learning disabilities from the requirement.

“The purpose of the exam is to ensure students leave high school with a minimum level of English and math skills,” state Supt. Jack O’Connell said Tuesday in announcing the results. “Our responsibility is to make sure high school graduates are ready for the rigors that certainly lie ahead in college and the workplace.”

O’Connell repeated his position that exempting students with learning disabilities from the exit exam requirement leaves them out of the accountability system, reducing the attention and resources they deserve.

But Boger contended the change was a positive one, and said she knew of one family who would likely welcome the change.

“We have special education kids who do all of their classwork and course work and because they’re unable to pass the exit exam, they are denied a diploma,” she said. “If that means this young man will be able to graduate, I’m very happy about that.”

Historically, California test results have been plagued by an achievement gap along ethnic and racial lines.

“We need to accelerate and redouble our efforts,” O’Connell said. “It’s an issue that absolutely demands the concern of all of us, especially as the education community looks to cope with the deep cuts its endured over the last year.”

Glendale and Burbank school districts have shown improvements in closing their learning gaps since the 2006-07 school year, mirroring the incremental advances statewide. Among all students tested during the 2008-09 academic year, 70% of Latino students in Burbank passed their math exam, up from 62% two years ago. Math test scores among white students held firm at 87% compared to last year, but that’s 4% higher than the 2006-07 school year.

In Glendale, 61% of Latino students passed the math exam, up six points from 2006-07. Math test scores for white students were down 2% for the same period to 82%.

“We have made a point of talking about the achievement gap” publicly, Boger said.

“In the last few years, we have been using a framework . . . and that allows our own teachers to be our instructional leaders, and I believe that has been extremely fruitful for the district.”


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