Friday, January 19, 2007

LAUSD HIGH SCHOOLS MAKE GAINS ON EXIT EXAM: District officials say remedial camps helped boost performance over previous year.

By Paul Clinton, Staff writer | Daily Breeze

Friday, January 19, 2007 - Los Angeles Unified's class of 2007 has already surpassed its class of 2006 when it comes to passing the dreaded high school exit exam, registering a 6 percentage point gain in the number of students passing the state-mandated hurdle for a high school diploma.

By this month, 78 percent of the graduating class had passed both the English-language arts and mathematics sections of the California High School Exit Exam. A year ago, 72 percent had passed. By August, 87 percent of the class of 2006 had passed and more than half of area LAUSD high schools were above the state average.

District officials credited the improvement to students' increased familiarity with the test and a series of after-school boot camps offered a year ago to more than 26,000 students in danger of failing one or both test sections.

"Our district is continuing to do a good job of supporting the students and assisting them," trustee Mike Lansing said. "I think we're making some good progress, especially for the largest urban district in the state."

The district improved the performance across the board for each ethnic group and will seek more resources to help recent immigrants. The test creates a language barrier for students who often arrive from Mexico or Central or South America to attend high school, board members said.

Board member David Tokofsky will lobby state legislators to increase the amount of funding in the state budget for remedial classes.

In his initial budget proposal, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger included $5 million. Tokofsky said he'd like to see that number double by the release of a revised state budget in May.

"It's a brother-can-you-spare-a-dime amount of money," the retiring board member said. "For kids who don't speak English who have arrived in this country in eighth, ninth and 10th grade, there ought to be some assistance so those kids can pass that exam and that will be more than the $5 million."

A year ago, the district began offering remedial boot camps similar to a program offered by a professional testing preparation company. High school seniors who hadn't passed received 20 hours of after-school preparation.

The district spent $10.3 million. About $1.3 million came from the state; $7.7 million from federal Title I low-income lunch funds; and $1.3 million in hourly district funds.

The district spent about $390 per student, district records show.

In the first year the test was a requirement for graduation, 2,092 in LAUSD failed to pass the test. The district's 87 percent pass rate fell short of the 91.4 percent of California students who passed.

Students at San Pedro High, where 94 percent of the class of 2007 has passed, Carson High (92 percent) and Westchester High schools (also 92 percent) surpassed the typical California test-taker from 2006.

And at Wilmington's Harbor Teacher Prep Academy, with 300 students pursuing a curriculum that prepares them for careers in education, the class of 2007 scored a perfect 100 percent.

Banning High (89 percent), Narbonne High (87 percent) and Gardena High (84 percent) came in below average.

Students are given six chances to pass the exit exam. A student who doesn't pass can still attend a community college or a district adult school and continue taking the test.

The exit exam tests students' command of English-language arts at a ninth-grade level and mathematics at an eighth-grade level.

"For the small percentage who don't pass, it's not like they're out on the street," Lansing said. "There are options."

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