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 Achievement Gap on Exit Exam a Thing of the Past

​The difference in pass-rates on the California High School Exit Exam for math between students of different ethnic groups has been virtually eliminated, according to data released by the Superintendents’ Achievement Gap Task Force at an October 14 news conference.

Task Force Chair Bill Kowba, the Superintendent of San Diego Unified School District, explained the Exit Exam math data, which showed a pass-rate of 99.9 for white and Asian students, and 99.2 for African American and Hispanics.

“That is something to celebrate,” said County Superintendent of Schools Randy Ward. “It is a dim light at the end of a long dark tunnel. The other edge of the sword is that the exit exam tests students in basic math.”

Other standardized tests of student achievement show that the achievement gap between student ethnic groups still persists, but is shrinking. The California Standards Test (CST) for 3rd grade English Language Arts show approximately 70 percent of white and Asian student scoring proficient or above, while less than 40 percent of the African American and Hispanic students scored at those levels.

Yet the growth rates in reaching proficient-or-above among African American students (20 percent) and Hispanics (38 percent) were far greater than whites (10 percent) and Asians (8 percent).

Kowba explained that the 3rd grade CST for English Language Arts is a key measure because students need strong reading skills from that point on if they expect to keep up.

A similar gap, and similar growth rates that are closing the gap, was shown in the CST for 8th grade Algebra, another important indicator for future academic success, Kowba said.

In addition to Kowba and Ward, speakers at the news conference included San Diego County School Boards Association President Penny Ranftle, representing all school board members in the county. Ranftle commended the Task Force for keeping the achievement gap and student achievement in general in the public eye despite the on-going state budget crisis in Sacramento.

Two students and principals also addressed the audience and news media at the press conference. Patrick Henry High freshman Diontre Range, and Montgomery High junior Seena Fuifui each described the focus on academic rigor and achievement at their schools. Lewis Middle School Principal Brad Callahan and Montgomery High Principal Lee Romero described the many structural and cultural changes at their respective campuses that had led to their exiting of “Program Improvement” status on the federal No Child Left Behind accountability program.