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Tenth-graders ace exit exams

Hart district’s passing rate higher than state and county schools, official says

Posted: September 2, 2009 10:00 p.m.
Updated: September 3, 2009 5:30 a.m.

At least 90 percent of tenth-graders in the Hart district pass the California High School Exit Exam on the first try, according to 2008-09 state figures released Wednesday.

Among tenth-graders who took the exit exam last March, 90 percent passed both tests, 91 percent passed math only and 90 percent passed English/language arts only.

“We are pleased with the results,” said David LeBarron, director of curriculum and assessment for the William S. Hart Union High School District. “Our pass rate is quite a bit higher than both the state and the county.”

Every comprehensive high school in the Hart district achieved a pass rate in the mid-80 to mid-90 percent range.
The numbers are a slight increase from March 2008 when 89 percent of students passed both tests, 89 percent passed math only and 89 percent passed English/language arts only, state figures show.

LeBarron credits the district’s efforts to make sure district curriculum are driven by state standards.

Despite the high passage rate, the Hart district is continuing to develop programs and strategies to improve the number of students who pass the exit exam on the first try.

For instance, the district is working with the local elementary school districts to provide early intervention for students struggling in math.

“They will start seventh-, eighth-grade much farther along,” he said.

Another area of focus is meeting the needs of the less than three percent of students who fail to receive a high school diploma because they have not passed the exit exam.

Many of the students who do not pass the exam are English-language learners and special education students.

“It’s working with them,” LeBarron said. “Addressing the needs they have to get them ready for their next test.”

Along with summer school classes and after-school programs, the district offers elective courses that serve as intervention for students struggling in English or math, he said.

In some cases, students are paired with a tutor for one-on-one intervention, he said.

“We work hard to address the specific needs of each student,” he said.

Compared to the state

Much like the state, the Hart district posted small gains in the number of students who passed the test on the first try.

Overall, 90 percent of Hart district students passed the English/language arts portion of the test in 2009, compared with 77 percent of Los Angeles County tenth-graders and 79 percent in the state. In math, 91 percent of Hart district students passed the first time compared with 77 percent in Los Angeles County and 80 percent in the state.

Each tenth-grader takes the required exit exam for the first time in March, with make-up tests held throughout the year for students who were absent or need another chance at passing the test.

Test not necessary for some

Starting this year, the exit exam requirement has been suspended for eligible students with disabilities, following July’s budget negotiations.

While “quite a few of our students” could be impacted by the decision, LeBarron said the district is waiting on more specific information from the state about which students would be exempt from the exit exam.

State Superintendent Jack O’Connell objects to the decision.

“This action represents an irresponsible and shortsighted shift in education policy that threatens to shortchange the quality of education for our students with disabilities,” O’Connell said in a statement.


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