La Cañada students ace exit exam

There were no surprises for La Cañada Unified School District when the California High School Exit Examination results were released on Tuesday, August 24. The data showed the district matched its results from the previous year in both math and English-language arts, with a passage rate of 98%.

All sophomores in California take the test as part of a state graduation requirement. LCUSD has never scored lower than 98% in math or English since the exam was made a requirement in 2006.

"I am very pleased with the results," said Lindi Dreibelbis Arthur, the district's Director of Assessment, Research and Consolidated Programs. "We have constantly performed at that level and I'm glad to see our students are still performing so well."

Only 13 students out of more than 320 that took the test in La Cañada public schools in the 2009-10 school year did not pass either the math or English-language arts portion of the test, according to results released last week.

"You don't get those results by mistake," said Aaron Dover, La Cañada High's new assistant principal. "What it says is that the community cares about education, the parents are supportive of the school and our teachers are knowledgeable about how to ensure their kids are prepared. They've taken up that challenge and obviously have been successful."

La Cañada Unified's average score is 20% higher than Los Angeles County's 78% rate in both math and English. California's average 81% scores in both subjects represent a 1 percent jump in math and a 2 percent improvement in English over last year.

"I am pleased that the latest exit exam results show that more of our students are mastering the mathematics and English-language arts skills measured by this exam," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said in a news release. "Passing the exit exam is a high-school graduation requirement because students need these important basic skills to be successful in college, the workforce, and in life."

Although the Spartans sit well above state and district averages, there was a one percentage drop in how many La Cañada High students passed math this year.

The percentage drop is accompanied by a decrease in how many people took the test. In 2009, 366 La Cañada High students took the math portion, while 325 took it in 2010. Even though La Cañada High's score dropped, just five students failed the math section, matching last year's figures.

Students who don't pass the test on the first try are given the opportunity to retake the test in their junior and senior years until they're successful.

Dover won't be content to just maintain the district's status quo.

"Obviously 100% is always a goal," Dover said. "There's still work to be done and of course we aren't satisfied until we have 100% of students pass the first time."

For the first time in the test's 11-year history, special education students weren't required by the state to pass the test in order to graduate. California's special education students scored on an average just below 40% this year.

La Cañada High special education students passed the math portion at 86% and English at 77%. Concentrating on improving these students' performance will be another important factor in raising La Cañada's score by two points, Dover said.

"These results are indicative of a hard-working staff, great community, great kids and great teachers," Dover said. "It makes me feel like I have to continue that progress and do whatever it takes to make sure we continue with that success. I definitely feel that pressure."

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