Mathematics

More Than Half of California 9th Graders Flunk Exit Exam

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — June 20, 2001 3 min read

A low passing score was not enough to help most of California’s 9th graders make the grade on the state’s first high school exit exam.

Results released this month show that fewer than 45 percent of the students who volunteered to take the test this past March were able to reach the minimum score of 60 percent in reading and 55 percent in mathematics. Even more troubling, state education officials said, about three out of four of the African-American and Hispanic students who took the test failed.

“The results are sobering,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin said in a statement. “The reality is that some of our schools are not adequately preparing all students with the coursework and material required to pass the [state test]. The data show that we have a great deal of work to do, especially with our low-performing schools.”

Beginning with the class of 2004, students will have to pass the exit exam to graduate from high school. In the future, the test will first be given to 10th graders. Those who flunk will have opportunities to retake the test.

Nearly 400,000 students, or 81 percent of the state’s 9th graders, volunteered to take the exam, a multiple-choice and essay assessment created to align with California’s standards. Those who passed will not have to retake it.

The state board of education overrode a commission’s recommendation and followed Ms. Eastin’s counsel to set passing scores at 60 percent for the English portion of the test and 55 percent for mathematics. She argued that due to the rigor of the exam, the passing rate should be set lower and gradually raised.About three-fourths of the students would have failed math if the higher cutoff had been used.

While the results were disappointing, state officials said they expected a slow start because more rigorous standards in the subjects are still being phased in. In math, for example, students were tested on their knowledge of algebra, geometry, and probability and statistics. But many districts and schools throughout California do not yet have textbooks aligned to those higher standards, and many teachers have not been trained to teach the new subject matter, according to Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin, a Democrat.

“I don’t think that we’re really surprised with the results, because we knew from the outset some of the material on the exit exam has not yet been taught to some of our kids in some of our schools,” said Ms. Strom-Martin, who chairs the education committee in the Assembly, the legislature’s lower house. “What it does show us is we still have a lot of work to do.”

Changing the Rules?

But other lawmakers said state education officials were trying to gloss over the extent of the problems in California’s schools by lowering the bar for students.

“It is most disturbing to me that the only way we can get 40 percent of our kids to pass is to change a failing grade to a passing grade,” said Sen. Raymond N. Haynes, a Republican. “This to me is outrageous. The whole purpose for having an accountability system, for having testing, is to see whether or not the adults are doing their job. And the adults look bad, so they change the rules.”

A panel of teachers, administrators, parents, and community members originally proposed a passing score of 70 percent for both English and math.

Margaret DeArmond, a math resource teacher in the Kern County district in Bakersfield, Calif., sat on that panel. In hindsight, she said, the lower cutoff scores were more realistic. “A lot of our students haven’t had this rich mathematics instruction that we’re aiming for. There were some hefty test items on that test.”

A bill currently under consideration in the legislature calls for an independent study of the exam to ensure it is aligned appropriately with state academic standards and for extending the date by which students must pass the test to graduate.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the June 20, 2001 edition of Education Week as More Than Half of California 9th Graders Flunk Exit Exam

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by Learning.com
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Whitepaper
Daily Math Fluency Positively Impacts Math Scores
The objectives of this pilot were to gain an understanding of the impact on student knowledge and test scores and to gain insight into th...

Content provided by Hand2Mind
Mathematics Opinion Teach Math in Ways That Are 'Proactive' & Not 'Reactive'
Eleven educators share their ideas on how to promote culturally responsive teaching in mathematics.
23 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Mathematics Opinion Twelve Ways to Make Math More Culturally Responsive
Four educators share ideas for using culturally responsive teaching in math class, including by helping students make community connections.
14 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Mathematics The Problem With Giving Math Tests Online and How Teachers Are Solving It
With students working remotely, there’s no point in administering assessments that ask them to give a single answer; it’s too easy to cheat.
8 min read
Image shows a laptop, virual teacher, virual classroom, and coronavirus symbols.
Mathisworks/DigitalVision Vectors