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More California students pass mandatory high school exit exam

August 22, 2012 |  3:42 pm

High school exit exam

California students in the class of 2012 improved their pass rate on the state high school exit exam for the sixth year in a row, with 95% demonstrating the required skills in reading, writing and math, state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Wednesday.

African American students showed a 2.3% improvement over last year, increasing their pass rate to 91.9%. Latino students also improved slightly by 1.3%, with 93.1% passing the exam. Among Asians, 97.8% passed and 98.6% of white students did so. Both African Americans and Latinos narrowed the gap between white students.

“When 95% of California students are hitting the mark -– despite the tremendous challenges we face and the work we still have to do -– there’s an awful lot going right in our public schools,” Torlakson said in a statement.

The test, known as the California High School Exit Examination, is given to all students beginning in 10th grade to ensure they have mastered basic skills. Those who fail the test have up to seven more chances to pass in 11th and 12th grades.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, a record number of 10th-grade students last year passed the exam on their first try, fulfilling a key requirement for graduation. 

Two-thirds of sophomores passed both the math and English language arts sections of the exam. The pass rate reflects a 23 percentage point gain from 44% in 2003-04. 

Over the last eight years, pass rates for Latino sophomores have surged 27 percentage points to 65%. For African American students, the figure over the same period jumped 22 percentage points to 58%, according to the district. 

Among all L.A. Unified students in the class of 2012, three-fourths passed both the math and reading parts of the exam.

In a telephone news conference Wednesday, Torlakson credited federal and state investments in programs for low-performing schools for the continued growth, including the Quality Education Investment Act. But he expressed worries that continued steep cuts to schools would begin to take its toll on student performance with overcrowded classrooms, fewer teachers and shorter school years.


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Photo: Ventura High School freshmen take the reading and writing portion of the high school exit exam. Credit: Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times