El Segundo High scores well

El Segundo High scores well on high school exit exams

by Brian Simon

El Segundo High School exit exam scores were among the highest in the South Bay, according to results released last week. Ninety percent of the school's ninth graders who took the test last spring passed the English section, while 69 percent passed in math.

The scores exceeded state, county and local district averages. The State of California is requiring that students in the class of 2004 pass the California High School Exit Exam before receiving a diploma.

El Segundo High School Principal Dr. Newton Hart said he urged ninth graders to take the voluntary test last spring, and ninety-three did.

Mandatory testing begins this spring for those who failed or missed the first round. Struggling students have been placed in intervention classes to prepare them for future testing. The staff is also providing vocational options for students with weak academic skills.

Hart attributes El Segundo's lower math scores, in part, to timing.

"The kids were tested too early," he said. "Some of the ninth graders were still in pre-algebra and had not yet been exposed to the algebra questions on the exam."

Fewer than half of California's students passed the math portion of the test. As a result, the state is considering delaying testing the class of 2005 until those students are in tenth grade.

Critics of the exit exams maintain the tests are unfair, especially to students who speak limited English or come from hardship families.

Hart added that some students perform better in real life situations than in a high-pressure test environment.

"I have seen students walk into the test room and throw up," he said. "A one-time, one-event situation does not reflect the real kid."

The English portion of the exam includes multiple choice questions in vocabulary, grammar and reading, plus a writing sample. All math questions are multiple choice and cover basic arithmetic through algebra. Students who do not pass the test will still have other academic options, such as taking a high school diploma course at an adult school, enrolling at a community college, or repeating their senior year. ER