SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A fifth of California's high school students expected to graduate in 2004 won't receive their diplomas if they are required to pass a state-mandated exit exam, a new report says.
Twenty percent of all incoming seniors will fail the mathematics section of the California High School Exit Exam because they have not taken the necessary classes to learn the test subjects, according to the report, released Thursday by the Human Resources Research Organization. The test also has an English-language arts section.
The Class of 2004 is the first class required to pass the exam, though the state Board of Education can postpone the graduation requirement.
After seeing the report, board President Reed Hastings told the Los Angeles Times said he favors delaying the test for up to three years so students can be better prepared.
"It becomes a question of, not whether to delay it, but for how long to delay it," Hastings said. The board has until August to make its decision.
The evaluation of the California High School Exit Exam was ordered by the Legislature when it passed a law in 2001 giving the state Board of Education the option to postpone the graduation requirement.
Students start taking the test as sophomores and can retake it 3 times a year until their graduation date. An analysis of scores at 1,843 high schools found that more than 80 percent of the class has already passed the English portion of the test, but just over 60 percent has passed the math portion.
The evaluation found that lessons in some schools weren't aligned with the state's standards, adopted in 1997, until the Class of 2004 was already in high school.
The researches also said that about half of students who aren't fluent in English and three-quarters of special education students won't pass the math portion.
"Can we really flunk up to two-thirds of kids with disabilities and say this is a motivating way to hold students and administrators accountable?" said Bruce Fuller, professor for education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and researcher for Public Analysis for California Education.
Gov. Gray Davis said in a statement released Thursday that the test had improved curriculum and instruction and is "a powerful motivator" for both students and schools.
"All over California, students are studying harder and reaching a higher bar," Davis said.
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