Exit exam pass rate overstated
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- Subject: Exit exam pass rate overstated
- From: George Sheridan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 23:38:36 -0700
- Cc: email@example.com
A very clear graphic at the end of this article on the Sacramento Bee
website shows the percentage of students from the class of 2006 who have
not passed the California High School Exit Exam, disaggregated to show
percentages of Hispanic, African American, English Learners and students
receiving special education services.
Exit exam pass rate overstated, study says
State defends higher figures, which exclude dropouts and kids who don't
take the test.
By Laurel Rosenhall -- Bee Staff Writer
Published Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Story appeared on Page A3 of The Bee
SAN JOSE - UCLA researchers say the state is overestimating the number of
students passing the California High School Exit Exam.
But state officials say it depends on how you do the math. And they prefer
This year's incoming seniors make up the first class that must pass the
exam to receive a diploma. The Department of Education reported last week
that 88 percent of students in the class of 2006 have passed the English
language arts part of the test and 88 percent have passed the math.
But at a meeting at National Hispanic University here, researchers on
Tuesday presented a study showing lower numbers - an 81 percent passage
rate in language arts for students in the class of 2006 and 80 percent
passage rate in math. Students must pass both portions of the test to
receive a diploma.
The reason for the difference: UCLA's calculations include class of 2006
students who dropped out in 10th and 11th grade or didn't take the test for
some other reason. The California Department of Education includes only
students still enrolled and trying to pass the test by the end of 11th grade.
"This difference is highly consequential," said UCLA professor John Rogers,
one of the study's authors. Rogers was among 200 educators and civil rights
advocates gathered at a conference partly sponsored by Harvard University's
Civil Rights Project, an organization that researches social justice issues
"The state has forgotten about 40,000 students in each section," Rogers said.
Where the state Department of Education says about 54,000 students have not
yet passed each section of the two-part test, Rogers says the number is
closer to 90,000 for the English part and 100,000 for the math.
Department of Education officials said their measurement is more accurate.
"We're measuring how many kids that are taking the (exit exam) are passing
it," said Rick Miller, spokesman for Jack O'Connell, the state
superintendent of schools. "That seems like the information we ought to
want to know."
Miller said the state's dropout rate is a significant problem. But
information on graduation and dropout rates should be examined separately
from the exit exam data, he said.
"What we're trying to talk about is not how many are graduating, but how
many are passing the (exit exam)," Miller said.
For exit exam opponents, the two pieces of information are related.
Students who don't graduate from high school - either because they fail an
exit exam or because they drop out - will likely have a hard time earning a
Russell Rumberger, an education professor at the University of California,
Santa Barbara, who spoke at Tuesday's event, estimated that high school
graduates earn about $7,000 more a year than those who don't have a
diploma, a difference in lifetime earnings of around $270,000.
Miller of the Department of Education said a consultant studying the exit
exam found it caused a slight decrease in high school dropout rates. He
said the exam enables schools to get extra help to students who are doing
"The worst thing we can do is hand the kids a diploma without the education
to back it up," Miller said.
Figures from the Department of Education and UCLA both show that African
American and Latino students, as well as those who are learning English and
in special education, pass the test at lower rates. But the UCLA study
claims the failing rate in these groups is higher than the state has reported.
Department of Education figures show 19 percent of Latino students have not
yet passed the test's English part; UCLA researchers say the number is 29
Department of Education figures show 24 percent of African American
students have not yet passed the math section; UCLA researchers say the
number is 37 percent.
The difference between the UCLA research and the state's statistics
highlights an ongoing quandary for California as it ramps up for the first
year of consequences on the test, which has been in development since 1999.
Without student identification numbers that track students throughout their
years in school, the state says it has no way of knowing exactly who has
passed the test. A statewide student ID system that would give them that
answer is being developed but won't be completed until at least 2008, state
education officials say.
Jim Lanich, president of California Business for Education Excellence, a
group that supports the exit exam and other standardized testing programs,
said the state needs to move forward with the exam, despite flaws in the
"Our tracking system needs improvement, but it's good enough for right
now," Lanich said by phone. "We can't keep getting ready to get ready. The
kids don't have a shelf life."
About the writer: The Bee's Laurel Rosenhall can be reached at (916)
321-1083 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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