S.F.'s class of ’08 struggles with exam

Nearly one-fourth of the incoming senior class within the San Francisco Unified School District has failed the state graduation exam, a standardized test that public school students are required to pass to receive a diploma.

More than half of the incoming seniors who are English-language learners or black still need to pass the exam, according to data released Thursday by the district.

Students first take the high-stakes exam in their sophomore year. If they fail, they have six more opportunities to pass before graduation.

The required test is made up of two parts: A math portion, which tests to an eighth-grade level, and an English-language arts section, which tests to a 10th-grade level.

The class of 2006 was the first group required to pass the California High School Exit Exam — in order to receive a diploma.

The incoming senior class is faring slightly worse on the exit exam than the class of 2007 did by junior year, according to the district. By 11th grade, nearly 80 percent of the class of 2007 had passed both portions of the exam.

According to the district, 977 students of the class of 2008 have failed to pass either both or one portion of the exam.

“The exit exam is a minimum competency exam,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said Thursday. “These resultsshine a bright light on how much work we still have to do.”

The students who have yet to pass the exam are integrated into a districtwide intervention program, where core classes are supplemented with before- and after-school programs, as well as some offered during the summer, according to district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe. The incoming seniors will have three more chances to pass the test during the upcoming year.

Supplemental classes have helped some students pass the test since sophomore year. As 10th-graders, 76 percent of the incoming senior class passed the math portion of the exam at first testing, while 74 percent passed the English portion. The students fared slightly better in math than students statewide, 75 percent of whom passed, and worse than the 77 percent of students who passed the English section of the exam on the first try.

“It’s just basic stuff, so you shouldn’t be able to graduate if you can’t pass it,” said Daniel Szeto, who will start his senior year at Lincoln High School on Monday and passed the exam as a sophomore. “But, for non-English-speaking students, it could be really difficult.”

Some students, however, are harsh critics of the exam.

“You should be able to pass it, but it’s kind of a waste of time,” said Preston Lau, an incoming Lincoln High School senior. “How are you going to judge people on one test?”

Seniors’ success

How San Francisco’s class of 2007 performed on the California High School Exit Exam:

3,530: Seniors who took the exit exam

3,318: Seniors who passed the exit exam by June 2007

212: Seniors who did not pass the exit exam

566: Seniors who passed the exit exam but did not have the credits to graduate

106: Seniors who did not pass the exit exam and did not have the credits to graduate

– Source: San Francisco Unified School District

arocha@examiner.com

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