Passing score undetermined for new required high school test
South Tahoe High School’s graduating class of 2004 will have to pass yet another test before receiving a diploma.
High school freshman throughout California were the first to take the High School Exit Examination in accordance with state law, Senate Bill 2, which passed last spring.
The exam accesses student ability in language arts and mathematics. Students have four years and multiple opportunities to pass the test. Once a student passes the exam, he or she does not have to take it again. But for now there is no established passing mark.
“The hardest part for us is the logistics of the test itself,” Lake Tahoe Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Barbara Davis said. “I support the concept. I don’t have a problem with students demonstrating the ability to read, comprehend and write. However, the logistics of this make it extremely difficult.”
Davis said she thinks the state may be holding off on setting a passing score for the exam for political reasons.
California Department of Education Director of Communications Doug Stone said a passing score has not been set because the state still has to collect some data on students who took the exam.
“There is a meeting this weekend to go over what a passing score would be and then a projected passing score will be given to the state board in June,” Stone said Wednesday.
The state sets testing dates for all California schools. This year the language arts section was given March 7, the math section March 13. The tests are not timed and include multiple choice portions in mathematics and reading comprehension and essay questions in language arts. The highest math skill tested is algebra and the language arts exam is based on a 10th grade learning level.
Davis said some people have expressed concern about the length of the language arts exam.
“It’s the length,” she said. “Not the content, not the difficulty of the content. It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out statewide and how they will deal with students who do not pass.”
Physically accommodating all students taking the exam and giving the test itself was quite an expense for Lake Tahoe Unified, Davis said.
“The interesting thing is all of this is very expensive,” Davis said. “Not just for us to administer but for the state. I don’t know where the state is going to get the money to keep it going.”
In March, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin and State Board of Education President Reed Hastings released a joint statement on the exam.
“The High School Exit Exam is a high quality product that meets the needs of the state,” the statement said. “It is a strategic tool that will help ensure that students receive a high quality education that is based on our academic standards. In essence, it is among our most important accountability tools. It will motivate our system to fulfill its responsibilities to students.”
English language learners and special education students must pass the exam in English before graduating high school. School districts can defer the requirement for up to 24 months from enrollment, until the student has had six months of instruction in English.
Special Education students must pass the exam but it may be administered with some accommodations as required in each student’s Individual Educational Plan.
Once completed, exams are sent out of the state to be graded. Davis said she is not sure when this year’s test takers will receive their scores back.
“We don’t anticipate having these back as soon as we thought,” she said. “We are hoping to get them back by the end of the school year.”
There are still a lot of kinks to be worked out, Davis said.
Whether or not students who fail the test will repeat their senior year is unknown, State Manager of the High School Exit Exam Jan Chladek said.
“I don’t know what will happen to them,” she said. “It’s theoretical. I think we’ll have to go through it and see.”
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After a period of dry, warm weather, winter returns this week to Lake Tahoe.