Many more black and Hispanic sophomores in San Francisco public schools passed the high school exit exam in 2012 than in prior years, but those gains didn’t necessarily occur at the schools receiving extra resources to help minorities succeed.
Among Hispanic 10th-graders, 66 percent passed the math portion of the California High School Exit Exam, up from 60 percent in 2011. And 70 percent passed the English-language portion, up from 62 percent in 2011, according to data from the California Department of Education.
Meanwhile, half of black sophomores passed the math portion on the first try and 55 percent passed the English portion in 2012 — up from 45 and 54 percent in 2011.
In 2010, the San Francisco Unified School District began directing $45 million in federal grants to 10 low-performing Bayview and Mission district schools in the hopes of boosting student success through its Superintendent Zone plan. But while some black and Hispanic 10th-graders in those schools fared better on this year’s exit exam, others saw steep declines. Hispanics at John O’Connell High School boosted their exit exam scores by 12 to 19 percent, while black students’ scores slid 4 to 10 percent. Progress at Mission and Thurgood Marshall high schools also were mixed.
Yet sophomores at Gateway High School, a San Francisco college-prep charter school, saw exit exam gains of 16 to 29 percent among blacks and Hispanics. Although regulations for public and charter schools are different, Gateway’s success can be a model, said Sharon Olken, executive director of Gateway Public Schools, who believes excellent teacher training is key.
“Kids have to feel like they have the chance to be successful, and that the school is set up for their success.”
SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said the success of the district’s approach can’t be measured by exit exam data alone.
“You need to look at the students each school is serving — specifically, who came to them in ninth grade with a solid K-8 foundation?” Blythe said.
Districtwide, 69.9 percent of 10th graders passed the exit exam on the first try, up from 67.8 percent in 2011. Across California, 83 percent of sophomores passed the exit exam in 2012, up from 82.4 percent in 2011.
“When we look at data, we look at what’s the success and what’s the failure,” said Pecolia Manigo, an education justice organizer for Coleman Advocates, which is pressuring the district to address racial disparities. “The failure is, there’s still a significant amount of students not at grade level.”
High school students must pass the exit exam in order to graduate from high school.
Source for both tables: California Department of Education