Exit-Exam Anxiety: Some have it …

Mt. Madonna senior Valerie Zamaripa gets some free food given to

Class of 2006 are first seniors required to pass the exit exam
in order to earn a diploma
Gilroy – The room was filled with the buzz of teens chatting, the munching of mouths on chorizo burritos, the slams of a door opening and closing.

One girl, slumped in a desk in the back, was still recovering from a long night of partying. The junior mentioned to a friend that she was drinking double shots of vodka all night.

On the surface, most of the students didn’t appear the least bit nervous as they prepared to take the California High School Exit Exam. Even Alma Quintana’s reminder didn’t quiet the chit-chat.

“This is a high-stakes exam,” said the Mt. Madonna High School counselor. “I need for it to be quiet in here.”

High-stakes is right.

The 100-plus Mt. Madonna juniors and seniors who filed into the classroom at the continuation school Tuesday morning have yet to pass the state test that’s now required to earn a degree. While the juniors will still have several more chances to take and pass the basic skills test, seniors who find out they failed when the results are released in early January, only have one more chance in February.

If they flunk the February exam, graduation won’t be a happy day. Seniors who don’t pass the CAHSEE by in February won’t participate in graduation ceremonies and will take the test again in May.

On Tuesday the English Language Arts section of the test was administered and Wednesday the students will finish up the math portion. Results are sent out 10 weeks later.

As the students waited for Quintana to begin passing out the tests, Valerie Zamaripa showed off pictures of her baby dressed up for Halloween. After sipping some orange juice from a carton, the 17-year-old senior said she wasn’t nervous at all.

“It’s pretty much common sense,” she said. “I took it before but I didn’t know, that it was, what’s the word, you know, mandatory.”

Still, when asked what she’d do if she comes back from winter break and is informed that she didn’t pass, her face clouded over.

“I’d be really upset with myself because it’s common sense,” said Zamaripa.

Zamaripa still needs to pass both the math and English sections.

Even though she’ll try to pass and she considers it easy, the senior doesn’t think an exit exam should be a requisite of earning a high school degree. If a student earns enough credits they should go home with a diploma, said Zamaripa.

Roberto Chavez also shrugged off questions about being nervous.

The 18-year-old senior said he was ” a little bit,” worried about not passing the CAHSEE in time for the February deadline.

“If I don’t pass, I don’t graduate,” he said nonchalantly.

Chavez said he’s not sure if he’d show up next school year to take the test again. It’s more likely that he would just takes classes at Gavilan College, he said.

Jose Oliva, 18, has a different attitude. The Mexican immigrant held up an exam guide and mentioned that he spent all Monday studying.

“I didn’t do my best (last time),” said the senior. “Today, I’ve got to do my best.”

For Oliva, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico City about 10 years ago, the English section is the challenging part.

Since transferring to from Mt. Madonna from Gilroy High School because of a lack of credits, Oliva said he’s learned a lot about life. Mt. Madonna helps pound in the knowledge that graduates will lead a better life, he said.

Mt. Madonna Principal Sergio Montenegro said it’s likely that, even though the school has a number of English learners, many of the students will continue to not pass the math section.

According to numbers provided by Montenegro at a recent board meeting, of the 64 Mt. Madonna seniors who have not passed the CAHSEE, 46 haven’t passed the English section and 55 still need to pass the math portion. Some of those students still need to pass both sections.

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