Nearly 90 percent of senior class has passed exit exam |

Nearly 90 percent of senior class has passed exit exam

SACRAMENTO (AP) – About 11 percent of this year’s senior class has not yet passed the high school exit exam and won’t be able to graduate on time, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell reported Thursday.

California Department of Education officials said another 7,000 seniors passed the test in March. But that still leaves nearly 47,000 students in the Class of 2006 – more than all the residents of Palm Springs – who haven’t passed both parts of the math and English test.

The figure does not include special education students, who won a one-year exemption from the exam last year after suing the state.

“Every student needs to have the skills necessary for success in this new global economy and that’s what we’re measuring with this exam,” O’Connell said.

A Contra Costa County judge is scheduled to hear arguments next week in another law-suit against the exam, filed primarily by English learner students who are seeking a temporary injunction delaying the test. They contend the state should offer alternative assessments for students who can demonstrate they know the material but cannot pass the exam.

O’Connell said the lawsuit has no merit and that the department is not making contingency plans in case the plaintiffs win an injunction.

This is the first year students must pass the exit exam to get a California diploma. In previous years, around 13 percent of seniors, or about 50,000 students, failed to graduate, according to the department.

Seniors who haven’t passed the test will have one final chance next week, although it won’t come in time for them to graduate with their classes.

Some districts, such as Fresno Unified, hold special summer graduation ceremonies for students who finish the requirements over the summer.

In Fresno, nearly 300 of approximately 4,000 seniors have enough credits to graduate but still haven’t passed at least one part of the exit exam, spokeswoman Erin Kennedy said. Many are English learners, she added.

O’Connell said it’s vital that California graduates learn English, despite the challenges.

“We do need to make sure that our students can communicate in English in order to compete in this new economy,” he said.

The superintendent has proposed adding administrations of the exam in the summer and on Saturdays next year, and said he’s grateful to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for again including $20 million in his proposed state budget to help students pass the exit exam.

O’Connell wrote the law establishing the exit exam while still a state senator.

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