High school exit exams hit another low

The number of high school seniors in California that passed the exit exam in 2008 was lower than ever before. The test is required for a high school diploma. So, why did fewer kids pass?

As of January 2008, special education students are required to take the exit exam -- the first time since the test results began to count two years ago.

"It could be children with attention deficit disorder and those are our ADHD kids," says Linda Ellis, Special Education Services.

Those who are severely impaired are excluded from taking the test. Nearly 54 percent of special education students passed.

Teachers have been preparing these kids for the exit exam - also known at Cahsee.

"They got very serious, they started looking at Cahsee results, they started looked at possible interventions that could take place, they looked at the students at their school and said 'this is what our kids need.'"

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell says students with special needs also deserve a diploma.

"They know that they need to acquire and obtain these skills in order to lead an individual and productive life."

But by including the special education students, the overall number of California students that passed the exit exam dropped from 91.2 percent in 2006 to 90.2 in 2008.

However, there was a slight improvement among other groups.

"We have more students passing on the first try than we've had before," says O'Connell.

The achievement gap between White and Asian students and their Black and Hispanic peers continues. But, this year's results saw some improvement.

The state requires that a student pass an 8th grade level math test and a 9th grade level English test in order to get a diploma. Districts have poured time and money into preparing students.

"Saturday classes, after school tutorials, lunch time intervention so schools are better able to assist students in meeting the need," says Thiara.

Students can take the exam for the first time in the tenth grade.

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