California High School Exit Exam Results Shows Growth

95 percent of Students Meet Graduation Requirement

LOS ANGELES—The percentage of students from the Class of 2012 meeting the California High School Exit Examination graduation requirement increased slightly over last year to 95 percent, marking the sixth straight year of improving performance, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.

 “When 95 percent of California students are hitting the mark — despite the tremendous challenges we face and the work we still have to do — there’s an awful lot going right in our public schools,” Torlakson said. “I congratulate the students who succeeded on this test, the teachers who provided invaluable instruction, and the parents who gave their support and encouragement.”

The (high school exit exam) is administered each year to ensure that students who graduate from public high schools demonstrate competency in reading, writing, and mathematics. Students who do not pass the (test) in Grade 10 have two opportunities in Grade 11 and up to five opportunities in Grade 12 to pass.

Preliminary results for the July, October, November and December 2011 and the February, March and May 2012 test administrations show increased passing rates among most demographic subgroups of students by the end of their senior year. African American and Hispanic students made some of the largest gains.

Overall, about 95 percent, or 424,480 students, in the Class of 2012 successfully passed both the English-language arts and the mathematics portions of the (test) by the end of their senior year. This was an increase of 0.8 of a percentage point over the previous year and an increase of 4.6 percentage points since the Class of 2006, the first class required to pass the (exam).

 “While I’m happy about the progress made by the Class of 2012, I still have concerns for the Class of 2013, the Class of 2014 and all the classes that will follow,” Torlakson said. “We have made solid improvement but schools and districts are facing some unprecedented challenges right now. 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.”

Results for the exam, which is one of several state and local graduation requirements for all students, will be provided at the school, district, county and state levels. They will be posted on the (Exit Exam) Summary Results Web page. Individual student  results are confidential.

This year’s overall passing rate did not include students with disabilities who are currently exempt from passing the test to graduate. They are required by state and federal law  to take the exam in Grade 10. Many of the students, however, continue to take the exam. For the Class of 2012, the passing rate for students with disabilities was 55.5 percent compared to 56.3 percent last year and 47.8 percent for the Class of 2006.

Among African Americans, 91.9 percent of the Class of 2012 passed the exam, an increase of 2.3 percentage points over the Class of 2011 and 8.2 percentage points over the Class of 2006.

Hispanic or Latino students of the Class of 2012 had passing rates of 93.1 percent, an increase of 1.4 percentage points over the Class of 2011 and 7.6 points over the Class of 2006.

Asian students passed the test at a rate of 97.8 percent, a 0.7 of a percentage point improvement over last year. White students passed at a rate of 98.6 percent — 0.4 of a percentage point better than last year.

The percentage of students passing the (exam) in the 10th grade, which is the first opportunity they have to take the test, has steadily increased.

Some 83 percent of the Class of 2014 has already passed the English Language arts portion, compared to 82.4 percent of the Class of 2013. In math, the passage rate for first-time test takers in the Class of 2014 was 83.6 percent, compared to 82.7 percent of the Class of 2013.

The gap between Hispanic and white students has narrowed by 12.5 percentage points from the Class of 2006 to the Class of 2014 (who were 10th graders this past school year) for the English Language arts portion of the (exam). For the mathematics portion, the gap between Hispanic and white students has narrowed by 12.9 percentage points from the Class of 2006 to the Class of 2014.

Similarly, the gap between African American and white students has narrowed by 7.5 percentage points from the Class of 2006 to the Class of 2014 in English Language arts. In math, the gap between African American and white students has narrowed by 10.5 percentage points from the Class of 2006 to the Class of 2014.



Torlakson Reports Climb in Graduation Rates for California

SACRAMENTO—High school graduation rates are up across California and dropout numbers are down, state education officials said Wednesday. The biggest gains being made among English learners and the state’s largest minority groups, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.

The new numbers represent the most accurate picture of how many state students are making it through school to graduation day. More than three quarters, or 76.3 percent, of students who started high school in 2007 graduated with their class in 2011. That is up 1.5 percentage points from the 2010 graduation rate. Larger gains were seen among Hispanic and African American students at 2.2 and 2.3 percentage points respectively, with the biggest increase being among English learners at 3.8 percentage points. The graduation rate for socioeconomically disadvantaged students climbed nearly 2 percentage points, from 68.1 to 70 percent.

          “Every graduate represents a success story in one of the most effective job and anti-poverty programs ever conceived, our public schools,” Torlakson said. “These numbers are a testament to the hard work of teachers and administrators, of parents and, most of all, of the students themselves. While they are a great illustration of all that is going right in California schools, they should also remind us that schools need our support to continue to improve so that every student graduates prepared for college, a career, and to contribute to our state’s future.”

Beyond the 76.3 percent graduation rate and the 14.4 percent dropout rate, the remaining 9.3 percent are students who are neither graduates nor dropouts. Some are still enrolled in school (8.6 percent). Others are non-diploma special education students (0.4 percent), and some elected to pass a high school equivalency exam.

Graduation and dropout rates for counties, districts, and schools across California were calculated based on four-year cohort—referring to this particular group of students—information using the state’s California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). This is the second time this four-year cohort information was collected, making this the first time that it can be compared year to year. With two years of data, the cohort rates will now be used to determine whether schools have met their targets for increasing the graduation rate for the Adequate Yearly Progress reporting under the federal school accountability system. The 2009-10 rates were also adjusted as a part of this data release (marked “A” in the tables below) to include only those students who were first-time ninth graders in the 2006-07 school year.

The new cohort dropout rate is calculated for high school students, grades nine through twelve. However, there are also significant numbers of students who drop out of school during the middle school years. Starting with the 2009-10 school year, the state began tracking individual students as they moved through the education system, identifying those who disappeared from schools and forcing districts to figure out where they were.

“Our research shows that chronic absence from school, even as early as kindergarten, is a strong indicator of whether a child will drop out of school later,” Torlakson said. “The dropout rate shows there’s still much work to be done, particularly to address the needs of disadvantaged and minority students. We must build on our work with parents and communities in the earliest years to pave the way for kids to succeed in school.”

CALPADS has made great strides since an independent oversight consultant was critical of the initial release of the system in 2009. In its latest report, the same independent oversight consultant concluded, “The CALPADS project is presently in the healthiest state of its history.”

To view and download state, county, district, and school graduation and dropout rates, please visit the CDE DataQuest Web site at DataQuest. Reporters are encouraged to use caution when comparing education rates among individual schools and districts; some, such as county office schools, alternative schools or dropout recovery high schools, serve only those students who are already at the greatest risk of dropping out, compared with the broader population at traditional high schools.

Please share with us your graduation success stories.

Study: Dropouts Decreased Through Middle School Transition

Middle and high schools can reduce the dropout rate by working together to plan the transition to high school, holding activities to familiarize students with the campus, and helping them feel connected to their new schools, according to a new report issued by the California Comprehensive Center at WestEd (WestEd is a California GEAR UP Partner and external evaluator).

“The transition from middle school to high school can be challenging for students,” California State Superintendent of Education Tom Torlakson said. “The good news is that some simple steps to make students welcome, can give them the confidence they need to stay on track and stay in school.”

The report, Making the Move: Transition Strategies at California Schools with High Graduation Rates, is designed to identify best practices among high schools and feeder middle schools.

The California Comprehensive Center at WestEd and its partner, the American Institutes for Research, worked with the California Department of Education to identify and gather information on schools with higher graduation rates than were statistically predicted for certain subgroups of students. The work of the Center is supported with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Researchers then interviewed administrators and conducted focus groups at some of the high schools and feeder middle schools. The research helped identify programs and strategies that help middle grade students transition to high school and ultimately graduate in preparation for college and careers.

“Successfully transitioning students from middle grades to high schools is vitally important to California education,” said Tom Parrish, Managing Research Scientist for the American Institutes for Research. “Students crossing this bridge successfully are much more likely to stay in school and graduate.

This study identified successful strategies that include:

·       Creating opportunities for staff across school levels to jointly plan and collaborate;

·       Arranging activities for transitioning students to become familiar with the high school campus and culture

·       Ensuring all students feel connected to the new school;

·       Identifying students who are struggling prior to transition; and

·       Preparing timely and individualized supports for such students.

Researchers also found some prevailing themes in these strategies. For example, enabling collaboration among teachers, providing students with many opportunities for academic support, helping students feel connected to school, having a strong counseling program, maintaining high expectations for all students, and the importance of having a caring staff and caring environment.

“Steps like these are a central thrust of our Blueprint for Great Schools report,” added Torlakson. “That is, great schools know they have to meet the needs of the whole student—not just their academic needs—to give them every chance to succeed.”

For more information on Torlakson’s A Blueprint for Great Schools, please visit the California Department of Education’s Web site at

CALPADS Data Reveals Poor Results for Students of Color

Today’s release by the California Department of Education (CDE) of the state’s graduation and dropout rates has good news and bad news. The bad news is clear: The data show that California students, particularly low-income students, students of color, and other high-need populations, graduate from high school at alarmingly low rates. The good news is that for the first time, the graduation and dropout rates are accurate, transparent, and are no longer estimates, thanks to the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, or CALPADS.

This year’s data tell us even more about student performance. The data show that three out of four (74%) of our state’s students are graduating from high school in four years, and that 18% drop out. Sadly, the news is far worse for the state’s African-American and Latino students, who graduate from high school at abysmally low rates—59% and 68%, respectively. Nearly one out of three (30%) African-American students and nearly one quarter (23%) of Latino students drop out. We also now know that 68% of low-income students, 57% of students with disabilities, and 56% of English learner students graduate in four years.

Given that students of color currently represent the majority of students in California and will overwhelmingly comprise our future workforce, the gaps in high school success between these students and their peers should raise serious concerns for community members, educators, and policymakers. Education outcomes for students of color, students with disabilities, low-income students, and English learners, whose needs and potential are often overlooked, are particularly disturbing when compared with the graduation rates of their more advantaged peers. For example, California’s white students graduate at a rate of 83% and Asian students at a rate of 89%. These students’ dropout rates stand at 12% and 8%, respectively.

“Before we had longitudinal data, state leaders based these numbers on a ‘best guess’ calculation,” said Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust—West, a statewide education advocacy organization. “With CALPADS now up and running, California’s leaders can no longer ‘pass the buck’ for the state’s high dropout rate by questioning the accuracy of the data. We need them to immediately enact policy reforms that will dramatically improve graduation rates for all students.”

California GEAR UP serves the populations of students most in need and identified as underperforming with these data, and our numbers are promising. California GEAR UP Students showed:

  • Significant increases in the proportion of students scoring Proficient or Advanced on the California Standards Test in 8th Grade Algebra, Geometry, English/Language Arts, Science, and History (55%, 28%, 49%, 69%, and 93% respectively).
  • The proportion of students at GEAR UP schools scoring Proficient or Advanced on the Adequate Yearly Progress measure in mathematics increased by 27 percent; the statewide increase during that time was 15 percent.
  • Significant increases in the proportion of cohort students in the 11th grade scoring Proficient or Advanced on the California Standards Test in English/Language Arts, Algebra 2, Geometry, and Chemistry above the previous class of eleventh graders (16.5%, 100%, 12.5%, and 22.6% respectively)
  • Valley High School in Elk Grove, CA, a California GEAR UP school, graduated 94% of their senior class (the GEAR UP cohort) and received their diplomas.

More information on the Impact of California GEAR UP can be found on our website HERE.

How are you addressing the needs of students identified in this article?