Berkeley Students Face Exit Exam, Lower Pass Rate than State Overall

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday February 08, 2008

More than 800 sophomores sat for their California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) at Berkeley High this week. 

State law specifies that all public school students take the exit exam for the first time in 10th grade. If they fail to pass, students have two opportunities in 11th grade and three opportunities in 12th grade.  

Students cannot earn a high school diploma unless they pass the exit exam. 

Last year, 89 percent of Berkeley High School students passed the CAHSEE, which was a rate slightly lower than the state’s overall pass rate of 93 percent, according to P. J. Hallam, the district’s director for the assessment department, and data from the California Department of Education. 

At Berkeley Technology Academy (B-Tech), the results were worse. In 2006-07, 41 percent (19 out of 46 students) of B-Tech students who took the CAHSEE English exam through 10th to 12th grades passed. Only 26 percent (15 out of 57 students) passed the math exam. 

“The numbers are not good,” Hallam told the Planet Wednesday. “The reason why these students went to B-Tech is because they need the support of an alternative school. There clearly needs to be more effort to improve the numbers.” 

Hallam, hired by Berkeley Unified in August, put together a student assessment data report for the school board in January. 

The majority of Berkeley High students passed the math and English exams in 10th grade, something that district officials said they expected this year as well. 

“In fact the pass rate for our high school 10th graders in English and math was slightly higher for the county and higher than the state over the last two years,” Hallam said. “It means we are covering the basics for the most part.” 

Multiethnic, white and Asian students continued to have higher pass rates in English than Latino (72 percent) and African American (61 percent) students for the last two years. 

“There may be some high school students who recently moved to California from a different country,” Hallam said. “As a result they are still learning English.” 

White students (at 93 percent) outpaced multi-ethnic (81 percent) and Asian (86 percent) students in CAHSEE math, while Latinos and African Americans passed at 67 percent and 58 percent respectively. 

“The district needs to work on African American students to improve their basic math skills,” Hallam said. “There needs to be remediation for them at the high school level.” 

Last year, 87 percent of Berkeley High seniors graduated, and topping the list were Asians and whites (92 percent), followed by Latinos (88 percent), multiethnic (84 percent) and blacks (80 percent). 

Students and can list their background as multi-ethnic if they claim two or more ethnicities.