High school juniors in California will have to pass the state’s graduation exam to get a diploma. This LA Times’ story starts with a familiar refrain: A poor girl might not achieve her dream to be a pediatrician if she can’t pass the math portion of the exam. The implication is that the exam hurts the prospects of low-income minority students. But the Manual Arts High student won’t make it through college, much less medical school, if she doesn’t know enough math to get a 55 percent, the minimum passing score, on a four-choice multiple-choice exam covering sixth through eighth grade math skills.
The story goes on to show that the exam is forcing schools to offer tutoring and Saturday classes, so students can pass the graduation test on their second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth try. The test is motivating students to work harder to improve their math and reading skills. Teachers are paying more attention to teaching the state standards, and they’re keeping track of students’ progress.
Junior Adriana de la Rosa, who grew up in Guatemala and struggles with English, said she would benefit from attention to fundamentals — such as vocabulary development and reading comprehension — rather than from reading “The Odyssey” in her English class.
“That’s why I’m taking the classes on Saturday because I think I need more help with my English,” she said.
. . . Manual Arts teachers and administrators said they were doing all they could to make sure their students were prepared. Among other things, teachers say they closely follow the state’s academic content standards on which the test is based. And school counselors met last month with incoming juniors who failed one or both parts of the test, recruiting the students for the Saturday classes.
. . . Los Angeles schools Supt. Roy Romer said his district’s high schools were trying new approaches to better prepare students for the exit exam.
For example, he said that ninth-grade teachers are now using instruction guides that cover the tested standards, and are assessing students regularly to make sure they are learning.
What a concept!
“I think it’s important to pass it, to see if you’ve been learning for the last [four] years,” said junior Julio Sosa, who failed the math section and now gets after-school algebra tutoring twice a week. “I think I’ll pass it this year.”
With her hopes for medical school, (Edith) Nicolas is eager to improve her algebra skills and is signing up for Saturday classes.
If the graduation exam didn’t exist, these students wouldn’t be trying to learn algebra and wouldn’t have Saturday classes to help them get on track for college. I just don’t understand why “advocates” for disadvantaged students oppose the graduation exam.