Half of high school students would not pass exit exam
If the state-mandated high school exit exam test, which goes
into affect in two years, were enacted today, half of Gilroy High’s
Class of 2004 would not receive diplomas
Half of high school students would not pass exit exam
If the state-mandated high school exit exam test, which goes into affect in two years, were enacted today, half of Gilroy High’s Class of 2004 would not receive diplomas.
The alarming news comes from the results of the California High School Exit Exam taken by the Class of 2004 last spring that were released on Monday by the California Department of Education.
“This just lets us know that there is a lot of work yet to be done,” said Gilroy Unified School Board Trustee T.J. Owens.
The test was administered to those students who failed to pass the test in their first try. On the second go at it, fewer than 25 percent passed the math portion of the exam and only 46 percent passed the English-language arts section.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” said Superintendent Edwin Diaz. “We only have two years left and there’s a significant number who haven’t passed the test.”
When combining the number of students who passed the exam on their first try with those who passed last spring, 65 percent of the Class of 2004 passed the English-language arts section and fewer than 50 percent have passed the math section.
Passing both sections of the exit exam is required before receiving a high school diploma by the year 2004.
“We’ll give it our best shot so that everyone passes the exit exam,” said Diaz. “There is nothing else we can do. We can’t allow our kids to not graduate.”
The California High School Exit Exam is the result of legislation that was passed in 1999. The exit exam test is first administered to students in their sophomore year. Once passed, it does not have to be taken again. Only the sections of the test that were not passed must be taken again.
Students who failed the test are allowed to retake it three times annually through their senior year. Seniors who fail to pass the test in 2004 and beyond will not receive their diplomas.
“To imagine our young people going four years and not getting a diploma…We need to do everything we can to intervene,” said Gilroy Unified School Board President Bob Kraemer.
The math portion of the test addresses mathematic equations through Algebra I. The English-language arts section focuses on standards taught through the 10th grade.
The district’s current goal of having 90 percent of its students performing at or above grade level in reading and math by the year 2004 were put into place in order to ensure that students pass the state-mandated test.
The district intends to meet its goal as a result of a variety of things that are currently in place.
“For one thing we have an aggressive staff development program that we adopted that looks at specific intervention classes to work on student deficits,” said Diaz.
In addition students in the district are given a Measurement of Academic Performance test so that the district can better identify areas that need attention and curb instructional training to focus on meeting those needs.
According to Diaz, most faculty in the district now enroll in a program that focuses on reading, math, language arts and writing. The program includes seminars on the most effective methods of teaching those subjects. In addition, teacher leaders in the district give additional help to various faculty members.
“The teacher leaders coach and give support,” said Diaz. “They are all very experienced and have been specifically trained in best practices. They will show other teachers what they do and how and demonstrate it for them. We just need to make sure that every student is prepared to pass (the exit exam).”
The test was first administered in 2001. That year, it was offered to ninth graders as a way to set and determine the passing score for future test takers.
“It was a one-time-only deal,” said Assistant Superintendent Jacki Horejs. “And the state decided not to punish the kids who passed it by making them take it again as sophomores. The kids who passed the 2001 exam didn’t have to take it as 10th graders.”
A passing score on the exit exam is 350 out of a 450-point maximum.
This year, 413 Gilroy students took the math portion of the test. Only 97 of them passed. The English-language arts test was passed by 128 of the 281 students who took the exam.
But Horejs is comfortable with the district’s direction and is confident of a major turnaround.
“We have our work cut out for us and we’re taking the challenge seriously,” she said. “Are goals are ambitious but we believe 90 percent of our students will pass the exit exam by 2004.”
The results from Gilroy Unified were far lower than both statewide results and other districts in the county. Statewide, 32 percent of students passed the math exam and 54 percent passed the English-language arts. In Santa Clara County the numbers were 43 percent in math and 62 percent in English-language arts, respectively.
In Morgan Hill, 83 percent of the freshman taking the test in 2001 passed the English-language arts portion of the exam and 65 percent passed the math section.
Last spring, Morgan Hill performed similar to Gilroy with 41 percent of its students passing the English portion of the 2002 exam and 29 percent passing the math section.
With poor numbers across the state, Diaz could foresee serious implications down the road.
“I focus on Gilroy Unified,” he said. “But it will be a cause for real concern if 30 percent of students are not graduating statewide, for example. Nobody knows what issues will arise down the road. At this point it doesn’t look good.”
Diaz went on to point out how this may have huge impacts on the state’s already overcrowded classrooms.
And many of these implications are currently being looked into.
Although passage of the test is required for the Class of 2004, it can be delayed. The State Board of Education will decide whether to do so by August 2003. If the deadline remains unchanged, students will be given one final chance after June 2004 to pass the exam and earn their high school diploma. If they fail to do so, students would have to earn their high school equivalency another way.
“When they come out of our district, we want our kids to be able to compete when they go looking for a job in Silicon Valley,” said Owens. “And we need to help better prepare them. That’s the bottom line.”