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COC offers an alternative exit strategy

Posted: December 2, 2008 9:51 p.m.
Updated: December 3, 2008 4:59 a.m.
Students who reach the end of their high school years but can't pass the state exit exam now have an alternative to life without a diploma.

With the aid of a grant, College of the Canyons and William S. Hart Union High School District faculty members have developed preparation courses and alternative education resources to help students move to the next step of life.

"What we've learned over the years is that students who fall into this category find that the typical classroom doesn't suit their needs," COC spokeswoman Sue Bozman said. "They have more individualized learning styles. They need one-on-one learning and so they fall through the cracks and not pass the test."

Additionally, Bozman said students who learned English as a second language sometimes fall behind, lacking the skill needed to pass the test.

"We want to find those students and let them know we have this program and that we can help them,"
Bozman said. "We want to give them the individualized instruction they need. We are very specifically targeted to them and we can provide help."

Statewide, more than 90 percent of California's first-time high school seniors passed the California High School Exit Exam before graduation in 2008.

But 46,000 students statewide failed the exam and were not graduated from high school.

Only 74 students in the Hart district, of the more than 3,000 enrolled, did not pass the test this year, said David LeBarron, director of curriculum and assessment.

College of the Canyons adjunct counselor Myriam Altounji said she wants to reach out to students who spent four years in high school and were held back from graduation because of the test.

"Our main message to these kids is that it is not too late to get your high school diploma," she said.

Altounji is part of a large team of college and Hart school district faculty who share hope for those left behind.

While in high school, students are presented with several opportunities each year to take the exit exam.

Still, some cannot pass the test.

"We have a tremendous parallel effort to help people pass the test," LeBarron said. "We have tutoring and summer school. Our goal is to have every student pass the test."

Even though the 74 students are no longer part of the high school system, the Hart district will contact through the mail those who need to pass the exit exam and offer COC programs and contact information.

A state-mandated independent exit exam evaluation program conducted by the Human Resources Research Organization reported that two-thirds of 2008 students who failed the test statewide are enrolled in special education programs.

A person who obtains a high school diploma is projected to earn 25 percent more money during his or her lifetime than someone who does not hold a diploma, said Jennifer Brezina, interim dean at COC.

A person who graduates high school and has some college credit will likely earn 41 percent more that an un-graduated adult, and a person with an associate's degree is projected to earn 51 percent more than someone without a high school diploma.

"We want to do anything we can do to help to connect these students with our college," Brezina said. "We want to help motivate these students to achieve."

If students do not want to pursue the high school exit exam, the college is prepared to offer alternative education courses that will prepare them for the job market.

Several certificate programs exist that do not require a high school diploma and associate's degree options are available as well.

Areas in which students can earn a certificate include biotech, animation, accounting, construction management, culinary, computer networking and several others, according to Altounji.


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