Exam back on the radar

GILROY
– High school students’ temporary reprieve from the exit exam
ends today. Sophomores in Gilroy and across the state are making
their first attempt at passing the test that will determine whether
they earn a diploma in 2006.
By Lori Stuenkel

GILROY – High school students’ temporary reprieve from the exit exam ends today. Sophomores in Gilroy and across the state are making their first attempt at passing the test that will determine whether they earn a diploma in 2006.

“I’m not sure how much it’s all really sunk in,” Principal Bob Bravo said. “I think it maybe kind of fell off the radar a little bit (when it was postponed).”

The state Board of Education shelved the California High School Exit Exam last summer, saying students were not prepared to pass. Under the 1999 law that created the exit exam, the class of 2004 was supposed to be the first to pass the standards-based test before graduating.

Tenth-graders, who will graduate in 2006, were never actually affected by the state’s two-year postponement, but some educators worried that the delay would affect motivation.

John Perales, principal of Mt. Madonna High School, said teachers and students at the continuation high school lost some of their focus after the test was postponed last summer.

“I think we were on a great track; I think we were finally building some accountability with students,” Perales said. “I think it hurt a lot of high schools in California when they postponed it.”

Hearing that the test would apply to the class of 2006, some under-classmen thought they had a couple years before they needed to worry about it, Perales said.

“It’s kind of a hard sell on them,” he said, of reminding them that they are first tested as sophomores. “It’s starting to hit home again, though, it’s starting to get that momentum again.”

Bravo said that he and Gilroy High School’s assistant principals visited sophomore classrooms to talk about the importance of the test.

“I think the students are going to have a more serious attitude about it (this year),” Bravo said.

Tenth-graders will take the English-language arts portion of the exit exam today and the math portion Wednesday. The test was most recently administered last summer and was not revised as part of the delay. Students will have up to five more chances to pass, or they won’t receive a diploma.

The leeway granted by the state didn’t stop high schools from focusing on standards-based instruction or offering intervention classes for students below grade level.

“I think we’re more prepared this time, simply because we’re aware of what’s ahead of us,” Perales said. “I just wish it hadn’t gone away.”

Perales attributes the school’s record number of graduates in 2003 to the focus on the exit exam.

Mt. Madonna is working with Extreme Learning, an independent tutoring firm that offered exit exam preparation to GHS students last summer, to start after-school intervention classes for under-performing freshmen and sophomores later this month. Below-grade-level GHS students can enroll in remedial English and math classes.

Intervention classes are also conducted during the summer months.

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