Although a higher percentage of California's high school students are passing the state's High School Exit Exam, state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson worries about how future classes will fare, in light of the budget crisis.
"We have made solid improvement, but schools and districts are facing some unprecedented challenges right now," Torlakson said, when he announced the test results Wednesday. "Overcrowded classrooms, shorter school years and fewer teachers are in store for us unless we stop the cuts to education funding and begin restoring some of what has been cut in recent years."
By the end of their senior year, 95 percent of the students in California's Class of 2012 had passed the English and math sections of the state's high school exit exam. This marked improvement from six years earlier, when the controversial graduation requirement went into effect and only about 90 percent of the Class of 2006 cleared the hurdle before it was time to walk the stage.
Students take the test for the first time as sophomores. If they don't pass both sections, they may try twice more as juniors and five more times as seniors.
Statewide, 84 percent of sophomores passed the math test last year and 83 percent passed the English test. Sophomores in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties met or surpassed state averages. But individual school and district scores varied widely.
San Mateo County saw 87 percent of
In Oakland, 67 percent of students passed the math portion of the exam as sophomores, compared to 84 percent of their peers in Alameda County. And 65 percent passed the reading section the first time around, compared to 84 percent of county students.
88 percent on the math test and 87 percent on the English test.
Steven Fong, principal of the Alameda Science and Technology Institute, said the results reflect the school's focus on academic preparation.
"If they weren't all passing," he said, "we'd be really worried."
In contrast, West Contra Costa County school Board President Charles Ramsey said he was pleased with his district's sophomore passage rates of 69 percent on math and 74 percent on English, even though they were far lower than the Contra Costa County average of 85 percent for math and 86 percent for English.
He said the district -- which includes a large population of low-income students and English language learners -- has shown great improvement during the past six years. The results, he said, showed a majority of the district's students are coming out of elementary and middle schools at proficient levels.
"That means they can focus more on teaching and learning and not remediation," he said.
At the Gilroy Early College Academy, on the other hand, all sophomore students have passed both exams since the school's 2007 founding, said Principal Maryanne Boylan. Standardized exams, she said, help to assess how prepared kids are.
"I think it's important that we have a level bench mark," she said. "It gives us a point that everyone is consistent with."
Staff writer Molly Vorwerck contributed to this report. Contact Katy Murphy at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup and Theresa Harrington at tharrington@bayareanewsgroup.
For a Bay Area News Group database of passing rates (including multiple scores for students that took the test more than once) for English and math, visit: www.contracostatimes.com/twitter/ci_21366891/2012-cahsee