About 20% of 96,000 high school seniors who took a rigorous new state examination in algebra and geometry this year passed with honors, according to results released by the state Department of Education.
The test, called the Golden State Examination, was modeled after the prestigious New York State Regents Examination and is intended to measure high achievement in specific academic subjects.
"This is not a test of minimum proficiency. It is an honors test," said state Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig, who hopes that the exam will motivate good students to push themselves harder. "Some students happen to excel in a particular subject. This test gives them a crack at winning special recognition."
The test was voluntary and was administered in May in 350 school districts statewide, Honig said. About 70% of the students who took the test have A or B grade averages.
Not Like CAP Test
Honig said the new exam is unlike the California Achievement Program (CAP) test, which measures minimum proficiency in basic mathematics, reading and writing skills and is used to gauge schoolwide performance. The Golden State exam tests high-level skills, similar to the advanced placement test taken by college-bound students, and only individual results are given.
Of the 56,000 students who took the algebra test, 6% earned high honors and 11% received honors. Attaining high honors would be roughly equivalent to an A grade at the University of California, department officials said.
The geometry test was taken by 40,600 seniors, of whom 10% earned high honors and 17% honors.
Students who earned honors will be designated Golden State Scholars and will receive a special insignia to place on their diplomas.
The tests, which cost about $1 million to develop and administer, were established in the Hughes-Hart Educational Act of 1983, a comprehensive education reform bill that raised school standards and created a number of innovative programs.
Eventually, Honig said, Golden State exams will be given in chemistry, government, economics, Spanish, English literature and composition and laboratory and health sciences. An American history test already has been developed and is being tested.