Special Ed Students Take Exit Exam for First Time

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 11, 2008 - 09:45:00 AM

The 2007-08 California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) results released on Tuesday by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell, show that the estimated passing rates for all first-time test takers in the Berkeley Unified School District are lower than the state rate in math and slightly higher in English. 

All California public school students are required to pass both sections of the CAHSEE to graduate from high school and must take it for the first time in tenth-grade. 

Students who fail to pass the test as tenth graders can take the test twice in 11th grade and if they continue to be unsuccessful, then they get five more opportunities as seniors. 

Students who do not pass both the English language and math portions of the exit exam by the end of their senior year can continue to take the exam until they meet both requirements. 

More than 493,000 sophomores statewide took the CAHSEE during the 2007-08 school year.  

According to data posted on the state Department of Education website, 772 sophomores in the class of 2010 at Berkeley Unified School District tested in math during the period from July 2007 to May 2008, out of which 578 (75 percent) passed. 

The state reported that 779 Berkeley tenth-graders tested in English Language Arts during the same time frame, out of which 623 (80 percent) met the CAHSEE requirement. 

“The students will have several opportunities to pass the test,” said Berkeley Board of Education President John Selawsky. “Most will pass by the time they are 12th-graders. There’s a lot of emphasis at the state level on the exit exam. It’s important for kids to take it seriously since they don’t get their diploma until they pass it.” 

The data from the state’s website also show that 753 sophomores only from Berkeley High School tested in math from July 2007 to May 2008, out of which 570 (76 percent) met the CAHSEE requirement. 

The state reported that 756 Berkeley High sophomores tested in English language during the same time frame, out of which 610 (81 percent) passed the test. 

Calls to Berkeley High principal Jim Slemp were not returned by press time. 

At Berkeley Technology Academy, 18 sophomores tested in math from July 2007 to May 2008, out of which eight (44 percent) passed the test. And 22 tenth graders tested in English language, out of which 13 (59 percent) met the CAHSEE requirements. 

B-Tech principal Victor Diaz said there has been a greater emphasis on taking the test more seriously since he took over as principal. 

“Students have started preparing for it more rigorously,” he said, adding that the school’s Academic Performance Index went up by 158 points this year. 

“It’s unquestionable that we have tripled the number of kids that are taking the test and are passing the test by the time they get to 12th grade. The older they are the more seriously they take it.” 

The estimated passing rates in English language for all first-time test takers in the California public schools in 2008 show some improvement—77.1 percent to 78.8 percent—a 1.7 percentage point increase over the past three years.  

In the math portion of the exit exam over this same period for first-time test takers, the estimated passing rate improved from 75.5 percent (when students in the Class of 2008 were sophomores) to 78.3 percent. 

Also, this year special education students who were previously granted an exemption from the exit exam were required to take and pass the CAHSEE for the first time. Nearly 54 percent of students enrolled in special education services in the class of 2008 met the CAHSEE requirement as of May 2008.  

“The California High School Exit Exam system is pushing our schools to ensure that more students who have disabilities are given maximum access to the general education curriculum and is pushing more students to reach for a higher bar of achievement,” O’Connell said. “The exit exam requirement ensures that all students who earn a diploma have important basic skills that will help them succeed in the workforce.” 

Data from the state’s website show that 67 sophomores with special education needs at Berkeley High School tested in math, out of which 15 (22 percent) met the CAHSEE requirement. 

Sixty-eight special education tenth-graders at the high school tested in English language in the same time period, out of which 21 (31 percent) passed. 

The estimated percentage of students in the class of 2008 who met the CAHSEE requirement statewide as of May 2008 was 90.2 percent. 

O’Connell announced Tuesday at a teleconference that the CAHSEE results underscored the need to work on closing the racial achievement gap. 

“I am pleased to see a slight narrowing of the gap among first-time test takers, but closing this gap entirely is the civil rights challenge of our time,” he said. “It is a moral imperative and an economic imperative for our students and for our state economy ... We still have a long road ahead of us.” 


To view CAHSEE results by school, district or county, visit cahsee.cde.ca.gov.