Summer exit exam yields at least two new graduates in county

Across the state, 819 members of class of 2006 pass the required test

SAN MATEO COUNTY — California officially graduated 819 more students from the class of 2006 Thursday with the announcement of the results of the July exit exam, the last one of the school year.

San Mateo County accounted for at least two of the new graduates, as high school seniors from both the Sequoia Union High School District and South San Francisco Unified School District passed the July exam. But not all students were given a final chance to take the test this summer.

The San Mateo Union High School District did not readminister the examination in July because results from the March exam were not announced until May, making it difficult to organize the targeted summer classes the law requires students to take before they can retake the test, officials said. Many students already had summer plans so the decision was made to hold off on the retesting, district Director of Assessment Jeannie Kwong said.

San Mateo Union still has 13 members of the class of 2006 who have all the academic requirements for graduating but have not passed the California High School Exit Exam, she said.

Jefferson Union High School District officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In the Sequoia district, 96 members of 2006’s class have yet to pass while 1,324 scored passing grades, including some who took it in July.Those remaining 96 are being tracked by the district, said Brandon Lee, the district coordinator for research and evaluation.

“Everyone has been monitored to make sure they’re in a program leading toward a high school diploma,” Lee said.

In his remarks from Santa Monica High School announcing the results, State Superintendent Jack O’Connell stood by the exit exam as a barometer for sending educated children into the real world. He highlighted what he called a “real” and “stark” achievement gap, however, between racial subgroups and socioeconomic classes.

“With each administration of the high school exit exam, we see an increase in the number of students who are meeting the minimum skill set,” O’Connell said. “We want all of our students to not only be able to survive to compete in this global economy, we want them also to thrive.”

Ninety-six percent of Asian-American members of the class of 2006 passed statewide, bested only by 97.5 percent of white students. Eighty-six percent of Hispanics and 84 percent of African-American students passed.

Eighty-six percent of students coming from a low socioeconomic background passed, compared with 76 percent of English language learners.

“These students are going to be critical if California is going to remain the fifth or sixth biggest economic engine in the world,” O’Connell said.

The class of 2006 was the first graduating class required to pass the exam in order to receive a high school diploma, after former Gov. Gray Davis signed the test into law in 1999.

Sophomores can take the exam once, juniors twice and seniors three times during the school year. O’Connell said that students could have the opportunity to take it up to 10 times if, given the legislature’s appropriation of funds, there is money to do so.