The results of the state’s high school exit exams, released near the end of August, show that students in the West Contra Costa County School District lag behind the state average in combined English and math scores.
On the English Language Arts part of the test, 58 percent of Kennedy High seniors, 66 percent of Richmond High seniors, and 72 percent of De Anza seniors passed. On the math part, 51 percent of Kennedy seniors, 61 percent of Richmond seniors and 69 percent of De Anza seniors passed.
The exit exams are initially given to all tenth graders across the state. Those with failing grades continue to take examinations until they pass, some through their senior year. The most recent scores come from tests that were administered seven times from July 2011-May 2012.
In combined subjects, students in the District passed the test about 12 percent less than students in the state overall.
Superintendent Dr. Bruce Harter said that the students who struggle the most with the exams are those who have been in the country for less than two years. Data taken from the California Department of Education’s Educational Demographics Office suggests that roughly 50 percent of the district population is classified as “English learners.” Statewide only 44 percent of students classified as English learners passed the English Language Arts portion of the test and 56 percent passed in math. Of all the West Contra Costa County School District English learners who took the exam, 47.5 percent received passing grades.
The schools generally said it was too early to comment on the test scores.
“We are still looking through and examining them here,” said Summer Sigler, an assistant principal at Richmond High. “We are not at a point to make conclusions.”
The District hopes that starting early and offering additional instruction – such as a series of promising summer programs – will ultimately help raise test scores.
At the School Board meeting Wednesday, board members touted the recent successes of several district summer programs. At the youngest level, students in the Elementary Extended Learning K-6 program – a summer program for struggling students – showed improvement in all grade levels for both reading and math.
Elizabeth Anne Torio, the District’s director of education services, said that including enrichment programs such as dance and music has helped raise scores. Torio said students are now more engaged and look forward to the enrichment portion of the day
Middle and high school students in the Juan Crespi Summer School Extended Learning Program also showed significant progress in reading and math skills, according to Juan Crespi Middle School Principal Patrick Martin.
Richmond High School has recently added new elements to the way it teaches English to try and improve student performance. Alison Evert, the head of the English department, said the school has piloted the use of “portfolio-based writing,” a teaching-intensive learning style in which students revise and review their work throughout the school year, producing a collection of all their writing at the end of the year. Evert said the portfolio method has shown positive results in her student’s performance and that she hopes to have 100 percent of the ELA classes at Richmond High School using portfolios by the end of this school year.