Despite new efforts to better prepare students, Oakland schools are still lagging behind the state on California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) scores. Only 63 percent of Oakland 10th graders passed the exit exam for English Language Arts compared to 83 percent statewide, according to data from the California Department of Education released on Thursday.
In mathematics, 68 percent of 10th graders in the Oakland Unified School District passed the exam compared to 84 percent statewide.
Oakland’s lower results compared to the statewide scores are at least partially due to the fact that “41 percent of all OUSD students are currently, or have at one time in their OUSD careers been, classified as English language learner students,” said district spokesman Troy Flint.
“We have a lot of work to do system wide, not only in terms of increasing rigor in high schools, but in grade schools to establish mastery of skills before students reach that level,” Flint said.
At Oakland International High School, for example, where the overwhelming majority of students are English language learners, the pass rate for 10th graders was only 4 percent in English Language Arts.
The district has taken 10 separate steps to improve student preparation in 9th grade and earlier for the exit exam, Flint said. Among the enhanced efforts are improved test prep classes in ninth grade, a push on expository writing in 9th and 10th grades, and improved math emphasis in the middle school years, grades 7 to 9.
At Oakland Technical High School, Met West and Life Academy, students scored at or above the statewide average of 84 percent in math. Met West achieved the highest rating in the district with 92 percent of its high school students passing the math portion of the CAHSEE.
The exit exam scores in English Language Arts for Oakland 10th graders actually dropped two percentage points in the 2012-13 school year, compared to the year before, according to state data. By contrast, math exit exams scores for 10th graders increased one percentage point in the same time period.
The Oakland scores were part of a larger packet of data released by the California Department of Education on Thursday. In that report, 12th grade passing rates were at their highest level – 95.5 percent – since the tests were made a graduation requirement in 1999, according to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. The state database did not provide comparative numbers for 12th graders in the Oakland Unified School District.
“Despite the very real challenges of deep budget cuts and the ongoing effort to shift to new, more demanding academic standards, our schools persevered and students made progress,” Torlakson said in a statement. “These results should give us confidence as we start the new school year, in our efforts to make college- and career-readiness a goal for every student move into high gear.”