In the past three years most of California's middle schools have been focusing on the ins and out of the /*Exit Exam*/.
That early intervention helped last year's 10th graders pass the Exit Exam on their first try -- 79 percent of them successfully completed the English portion, that's up two percent and nearly 80 percent of tenth graders passed the math section the first time, up more than four percent.
"It does mean that the greater familiarity with our standards, the high expectations that we have for all of our students," said Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell.
The exam focuses on 10th grade English and 9th grade math skills. It became mandatory in 2006. Students must pass it in order to get a high school diploma.
The numbers also show a slight improvement amongst that blacks and Hispanics. The passing rate was 81 percent for blacks 87 for Hispanics and 95 for whites.
In Santa Clara County, school districts have been working on a 10 year plan to narrow the achievement gap. It's called SJ2020. It means for the next 10 years, schools will focus more on intervention programs.
Don Iglesias is the Superintendent of San Jose Unified. He says the district will make cuts elsewhere in order to protect the programs that help students pass the Exit Exam.
One of those programs eliminated this year was k through 3 class size reduction.
"There is no research that says 20 to one versus 30 to one really makes a significant difference, so rather than cut some of the intervention programs and the support programs for kids that was one of the tough decisions we had to make," said Iglesias.
Still, educators worry more budget cuts could undermine any efforts to narrow that gap.