Students improve on exit exam

GLENDALE — More students passed the high school exit exam on their first attempt in Glendale and Burbank unified school districts in 2010 than last year, according to data released Tuesday by the California Department of Education.

Scores for the exam rose in Glendale Unified by 1% to 88% in English language arts, while math scores rose by 2% to 92%. In Burbank Unified, scores for English and math rose by 1% to 91% and 92%, respectively.

All sophomores take the two-part English and math test, a state graduation requirement.

"When we look at overall scores, it's exciting to see growth, and when you see Clark [Magnet High School] at 99% and Crescenta Valley [High School] in math at 99%, it's a tremendous tribute to the teachers, the students and the leadership of the school," said Kathy Thorossian, who oversees instruction for Glendale Unified.

Both comprehensive Burbank high schools had similar results, which validates the elementary and middle school curriculum and instruction, said Jennifer Meglemre, the district's assessment and curriculum coordinator.

"The populations are slightly different, but regardless of that, they are very successful with the kids they've got," she said. "We've had a number of kids coming into Burbank in high school from Egypt and the Middle East and all sorts of places, but I'm looking at their scores, and we're still getting them to pass the [exit exam] before they leave."

In Glendale, Latino sophomores passing the exit exam grew by 3% on the math portion and 2% on the English test, but the district's Latino and African American students still lag behind white and Asian American students.

Ethnic minorities in Burbank Unified had similar gains, but lag behind the district's white and Asian American students, according to state data.

Filipino sophomores, which outnumber African American 10th-graders in Burbank and Glendale, maintained consistent or slightly improved scores.

"The achievement gap is just pernicious," Thorossian said.

Average scores in both districts are higher than those for the state and Los Angeles County. State Supt. Jack O'Connell praised local school districts for their commitment to graduating students despite suffering $17 billion in cuts the last two years.

"It shows the strong effort and, quite frankly, the resiliency of public education in California," he said. "We know all students can learn at high levels. Public education needs that same high commitment from Sacramento to adequately fund our schools."

This was the first year since the test's creation in 1999 that special-education students were not required to pass the exam to graduate, officials said. Still, Glendale and Burbank special-education sophomores outperformed the county and state averages.

English language learners often struggle to pass the exam, but Glendale Unified sophomores in that category saw their scores increase by 5% in math and 10% in English.

Students have two more opportunities to take the exam their junior year, and between three and five chances their senior year to graduate with a diploma. More students this year returned, after graduation, to take the test again, O'Connell said.

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