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County Ranks Poorly in Exit Test

Schools: L.A. Unified drags overall scores down in first use of high school exam.


Ninth-grade students in public schools throughout the state took the California high school exit examination for the first time in spring 2001. The exam, voluntary this year only, covered two parts: English language arts and mathematics. Results for all districts and high schools in California are available on the Web at Here are some actual tasks and problems:

Word analysis, fluency, reading comprehension:

The following article provides information about a potentially fatal source of food that koalas were given in zoos. Read the article and answer the questions.

Deadly Leaves

Koalas, native to the Australian wilds, initially proved difficult to keep alive in zoos. Because koalas eat nothing but the leaves of the eucalyptus tree, zoos provided them with an unlimited supply of eucalyptus leaves. One zoo even planted eucalyptus trees in a special grove to ensure that the koalas had a continual supply of fresh leaves. However, koalas kept in captivity always died within a year of their arrival at the zoo.

Eventually it was discovered that eucalyptus trees that are less than five years old sometimes generate hydrocyanic acid in their leaves. Taking in small quantities of this acid is fatal to the koala. In their natural habitat, the koalas' senses tell them which eucalyptus trees have dangerous leaves, and they simply move on to other trees until they find leaves that are safe to eat. But in captivity, when their keepers unknowingly were giving them leaves contaminated with acid, the koalas were left with only two options: eat the poisonous leaves or starve. Either option was fatal to the trapped koalas.

Fortunately, today's zoos use special tests to distinguish between poisonous eucalyptus leaves and safe ones, and now koalas are eating well and thriving in zoos.

1. What does the word contaminated mean in the following phrase?

But in captivity, when their keepers unknowingly were giving them leaves contaminated with acid, the koalas were left with only two options: eat the poisonous leaves or starve.

A. carried with

B. polished with

C. poisoned with

D. grown from


2. What is the purpose of this article?

A. to inform

B. to persuade

C. to entertain

D. to express opinion


3. What tone does the author establish in the article?

A. critical

B. hopeful

C. straightforward

D. humorous


Writing applications:

In this essay about hummingbirds, the author describes many of the bird's characteristics. In each paragraph, she supports the purpose of her essay. What is the author's purpose for writing this essay about hummingbirds? What details does she give to support her purpose?

Write an essay in which you discuss the author's purpose for writing this essay on hummingbirds. What details and examples does she use to support the purpose of her essay?

Your response will be scored in two ways. One score will be given for how well you understand the selection and for the completeness of your response. A second score will be given for the overall quality of your writing.

The following checklist will help you do your best work. Make sure you:

* Read the selection and the description of the task carefully.

* Use specific details and examples from the reading selection to demonstrate your understanding of the selection's main ideas and the author's purpose.

* Organize your writing with a strong introduction, body and conclusion.

* Choose specific words that are appropriate for your audience and purpose.

* Vary your sentences to make your writing interesting to read.

* Use an appropriate tone and voice.

* Check for mistakes in grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence formation.

Written English language conventions:

For the following questions, choose the answer that is the most effective substitute for each underlined part of the sentence. If no substitution is necessary, choose "Leave as is."

4. When Tom arrived at school he was carrying all his books with him.

A. arrived at school, he

B. arrived, at school he

C. arrived at school he,

D. Leave as is.

5. A dog bit Tom's ankle while riding a bicycle.

A. Riding a bicycle, a dog bit Tom's ankle.

B. While riding a bicycle, a dog bit Tom's ankle.

C. While Tom was riding a bicycle, a dog bit his ankle.

D. Leave as is.

6. After, the volcano erupted, the tiny tropical island was quiet and devastated.

A. After the volcano erupted, the

B. After the volcano erupted the

C. After the volcano erupts, the

D. Leave as is.

For question 7, choose the word or phrase that best completes the sentence.

7. "We should -------------- without the captain," the coach said impatiently.

A. proceeds

B. precede

C. precedent

D. proceed

Number sense:

8. Which of the following numerical expressions results in a negative number?

A. (-7) + (-3)

B. (-3) + (7)

C. (3) + (7)

D. (3) + (-7) + (11)

Number sense:

9. A pair of jeans regularly sells for $24. They are on sale for 25% off. What is the sale price of the jeans?

A. $6

B. $18

C. $20

D. $30

Statistics, data analysis and probability:

10. The chart below shows the mathematics test scores of three students.


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