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More San Diego County Sophomores Pass Exit Exam — But Achievement Gap Persists

A student takes a multiple-choice test in this undated photograph.
Alberto G. / Flkr
A student takes a multiple-choice test in this undated photograph.

Results are in for the spring 2014 California High School Exit Exam, and a higher percentage of San Diego County's sophomores passed each section of the two-part exam on their first try than the state as a whole.

But not all of the news is good. An achievement gap for poor and minority students persisted in the county.

Every year, high school sophomores take California’s exit exam in the spring. If they pass, they are one step closer to graduating. If they fail, they can try again as juniors and seniors. Students must pass the exit exam to graduate from high school in California.


The California Department of Education released the state test results Friday.

English Language Arts

In San Diego County, 86.5 percent of first-time test takers passed the English portion of the test, compared to the state average of 83.2 percent.


The math section showed a similar point spread between San Diego County first-time test takers (88.3 percent) and the state average (85.1 percent).


Achievement Gap

The test results show ethnic, economic and gender gaps endured.

In San Diego County, 81 percent of Hispanic and African-American students passed the language arts part of the exam on the first try compared to 93.1 percent for white and Asian students. In math, the results were 83.4 percent for Hispanic and African-American students compared to 94.2 for their white and Asian counterparts.

Poor students in the county have a harder time, too: 82 percent of them are able to pass on the first try, while 94.2 percent of wealthier students pass the first time they take the exam. Poor students are defined by qualifying for the free school lunch program.

The gender gap in the county has girls besting the boys in both testing areas. On the language arts test, 89.4 percent of girls taking the test for the first time passed while 83.7 percent of the boys passed. In math, the girls outperformed boys 88.9 percent to 87.7 percent.

Despite the math achievement by girls, they continue to not pursue in college the study of science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM courses. According to the American Association of University Women, only 25 percent of the STEM workforce is made up of women.

Shannon Colter, assessment coordinator for the San Diego County Office of Education, said the silver lining of any achievement gap is that it can inspire efforts to close it.

“It allows us to ask the question: What do we need to do to try to close that gap? It helps tell us that a gap exists and we need to act on it,” Colter said.