State fails to assign passing test score |

State fails to assign passing test score


SACRAMENTO (AP) – California’s high school graduation test made its debut among ninth-graders Wednesday – but they might not know if they passed until next fall.

The state Board of Education discussed how they might set a passing score for the test at its monthly meeting Wednesday, but did not make a decision.

Freshman who volunteered to take the test this year took the writing portion Wednesday, which includes answering 82 reading questions and writing two essays .

They will take the 80-question math portion next week.

Today’s ninth-graders, the class of 2004, are the first California students who must pass Gov. Gray Davis’ high school exit exam to graduate. If they don’t pass this year, they must take it as 10th-graders and will have several chances after that to try again.

No one knows for sure how many of the state’s 480,000 freshmen are voluntarily taking the test this month.

Phil Spears, director of standards and assessment for the state Department of Education, said he hopes at least 300,000 are participating.

The number of students taking the test is in doubt because of the confusion surrounding the test for the last six weeks. Schools, parents and students have not known if students could actually pass the test or if it would be only a practice exam.

The 1999 law creating the test said ninth-graders could volunteer to take the test this spring and if they did well, could pass it and not have to take it again.

However, Davis in December proposed making it a practice test this year, so all students would have to take it as 10th-graders next year.

He said court decisions in other states and test experts have said it is better to have all students take the test at once to withstand legal challenges.

The state could then argue, if it were sued, that test questions and the passing score were fair because a complete cross-section of students took the test at the same time.

However, the state Senate on Monday rejected Davis’ practice test bill, meaning that this month’s test will count for the freshmen who take it.

State school Superintendent Delaine Eastin told the state board Wednesday that the failure of the bill ”didn’t wreck everything.”

”We have a very good test here and we are on the right path,” she said. ”We really don’t feel we’re in a disastrous situation.”

Now the board, which didn’t plan to set a passing grade until next year, must determine one quickly.

State law requires the state to give students who take the test their raw score by May 18.

Spears told the board members they have two choices in setting a passing grade.

The quick one, which would allow students to learn whether they passed or not when they get their scores in May, would require state officials to use results from fall field tests on 13,000 students to set the passing mark, he said.

The longer method would use results both from the field tests and from the actual test this month, but that wouldn’t be finished until September, he said.

Department lawyers and test experts are trying to determine which method is better and could be defended better in lawsuits, he said.

Board President Reed Hastings asked department officials to give board members some recommendations in a week, since they might have to make a decision before their next scheduled meeting in early April.

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