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Freshmen get first shot at exit exam

March 14, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

High school freshmen across Imperial County finished the first phase of the California high school exit exam Tuesday.

The class of 2004 is the first to be required by the state to pass the test to receive a diploma.

"The ninth-grade year is a voluntary year, but we encourage everyone to take it," said Marsha King, mathematics coordinator at the county Office of Education.

Imperial High School test coordinator Linda Weck said the exam was mandatory for the school's freshmen unless parents elected not to have their child take it. She added that no parents had made that decision.

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Beginning next year, the exit exam will be given to sophomore students each year, since it is based on the 10th-grade language arts and math state standards.

After much debate in the state Senate, it was decided that freshmen do not have to retake parts of the test they pass this year.

Students will be given a chance to pass the exam twice each year and during the summer until they pass the test.

Janet Bilderback, Brawley Union High School resource teacher and test coordinator, said the exit exam will be given once in the fall, spring and summer.

"The scores will indicate areas that need to be strengthened," Bilderback said.

She added that Brawley High is taking an "immediate intervention" approach to the results of the test, which school officials should receive by mid-May.

Bilderback indicated that based on the test results, BUHS will offer classes to help students pass the test.

Central Union High School Principal Emma Jones said teachers have been preparing students for the test since the beginning of the school year.

Every Friday in second-period classes, teachers instruct students in test preparation for the SAT-9 and the exit exam, including test-taking skills and state standard preparedness.

Although students are taking the test seriously, they are not happy about it.

Ady Reyes, 14, and a freshman at Brawley High, said: "It isn't fair because the grades don't determine whether or not we pass high school, the test does. Grades don't matter."

Brawley High freshman Cristina Lopez, 15, agreed and added that the test is hard "because we're still acquiring the skills we need to pass the test."

She added that having the exit exam adds pressure for the students.

"We have pressure for the tests and classes, and it's hard to balance time," Lopez said.

Bilderback has heard the complaints, and notes the students are taking the test seriously, unlike their attitudes toward other state tests.

"It affects them personally," Bilderback said.

Many schools have not yet decided what to do in the event a high school senior does not pass the test.

Many have considered the option of a "certificate of attendance" for seniors who are not allowed to receive a diploma. A few schools have considered retention.

"The school board and administration are working out the details," said Weck.

All agree that students have plenty of opportunities and help available to pass the test, pointing to intervention classes and summer school as options.

The next round of testing begins in May for students who did not pass the exam the first time.

Staff Writer Laura MacKenzie can be reached at 337-3442.

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