California State Superintendent of Instruction, Jack O’Connell, came to Santa Monica High School on October 26 to announce that another 819 students statewide from the Class of 2006 had passed the California High School Exit Exam in July.
One of those 819 students was Jeffrey Ramirez, who was a Samohi senior in 2005-2006 and is currently a student at Santa Monica College. He received his high school diploma from O’Connell at a press conference. Ramirez had satisfied all the other graduation requirements except for passing the exam, and credited his teachers with giving him the extra help he needed to finally pass.
The Class of 2006 was the first high school graduating class required to pass the Exit Exam as a condition of graduation. The exam contains an English language arts section and a math section. Students get their first chance to pass the exam in 10th grade. If they don’t pass, they can retake the exam again until they do. Statewide, 91.4 percent of high school students passed the exam in 2006. However, according to the California Department of Education, “Passage rates among African-American students, Latino students, economically disadvantaged students and those learning the English language are significantly lower.” This achievement gap is similar in Santa Monica.
Says O’Connell: “I’m convinced that the exam has actually helped poor and minority students by focusing extra attention on those students lacking the skills to pass the exam. If students are allowed to graduate without necessary skills, we all fail them.” Still, he notes there is a “disturbing achievement gap that must be addressed.” He urged those students from the Class of 2006 who still haven’t passed to continue their education and take the exam again.