More San Francisco students passing exit exams on first try 

The number of students who pass the California High School Exit Examination has held steady, but more are passing it on the first try, according to data released Wednesday by the California Department of Education.

In The City, 95 percent of seniors with enough credits to graduate had passed the test by the time May rolled around. That was on par with the statewide figure, though city students were slightly less likely than their California peers to pass the first time.

In announcing the numbers, state school chief Tom Torlakson took an opportunity to slam cuts to education.

“It is heartening to see that our students continue to learn and achieve despite the painful toll that budget cuts are taking on our schools,” he said.

Students must pass both the English and math sections of the test to graduate, but they get eight chances to do so, with the first in 10th grade. Most sophomores in The City and statewide pass at least one section.

In their junior year, students get another two chances, and San Francisco juniors last year did much better than the class that preceded them. More than 81 percent of the class of 2012 has already passed both sections of the test, compared to 63 percent of the class of 2011 when they were juniors.

Students who haven’t passed the test after two years of trying get another five chances their senior year. Some special-education students can get waivers, but anyone else who doesn’t pass the test does not receive a diploma when their class graduates. People who have not received a diploma can keep trying to pass, taking the test up to three times a year.

The test is not only high stakes for would-be high school graduates. Schoolwide results will be taken into account by the state when school report cards are issued later this month. High schools that do not make progress may face sanctions under federal law.


Diploma woes

Hundreds of San Francisco seniors did not meet requirements to graduate last May.

Number of seniors in May: 4,269

Number who had enough credits to graduate: 3,505

Number who fell short: 764

Number of students with enough credits who passed the California High School Exit Examination: 3,320

Number who did not pass: 185, all but 36 of whom were special education or English language learners

Source: SFUSD

Passing or not

Students have eight tries to pass the exam, with the first in 10th grade. The percent of San Francisco sophomores who passed the math section is up from last year, but fewer passed the English section.


SFUSD 2010 80%
Statewide 2010 81%
SFUSD 2011 82%
Statewide 2011 83%


SFUSD 2010 80%
Statewide 2010 81%
SFUSD 2011 77%
Statewide 2011 82%

Top performers

Sophomores at these city high schools passed the test at the greatest rates.


Lowell    100%

Galileo     92%

Abraham Lincoln    89%


Lowell    99%

Ruth Asawa    91%

Raoul Wallenberg    88%


Bottom tier

Sophomores at these city high schools were least likely to pass.


Downtown    16%

Five Keys Charter    36%

June Jordan    43%


S.F. International    7%

Downtown    44%

Life Learning    55%

O’Connell    55%

Source: California Department of Education

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