Ventura High School freshmen take the reading and writing portion of the… (Bryan Chan / Los Angeles…)
Two-thirds of Los Angeles Unified sophomores passed the state high school exit exam on their first try, a record number that reflects six years of consecutive improvement, the school district announced Wednesday.
Supt. John Deasy credited the success to a more targeted effort to use data to identify students struggling with the reading, writing and math skills and to give them more help.
"The results are the best I could ever have imagined," Deasy said. "I'm very proud."
The pass rate reflects a 23 percentage point gain from 44% in 2003-04. Over the last eight years, pass rates for Latino sophomores have surged 27 percentage points to 65%. For African American students, the figure over the same period jumped 22 percentage points to 58%, according to the district.
Among all L.A. Unified School District students in the class of 2012, three-fourths passed both the math and reading parts of the exam.
Statewide, 95% of students in the class of 2012 passed the mandatory test, reflecting improvement for the sixth straight year, state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said.
African American students boosted their pass rate to 91.9%. Pass rates among Latinos were 93.1%, for Asians 97.8% and for whites, 98.6%. Both African Americans and Latinos narrowed the achievement gap with white students.
"When 95% of California students are hitting the mark — despite the tremendous challenges we face and the work we still have to do — there's an awful lot going right in our public schools," Torlakson said in a statement.
The test, known as the California High School Exit Examination, is given to all students beginning in 10th grade to ensure they have mastered basic skills. Those who fail the test have up to seven more chances to pass in 11th and 12th grades. The test is geared to a 10th-grade level in English and an eighth-grade level in math.
In a teleconference Wednesday, Torlakson credited federal and state investments in programs for low-performing schools for the continued growth, including the Quality Education Investment Act. But he expressed concern that continued steep cuts to schools would begin to take a toll on student performance with overcrowded classrooms, fewer teachers and shorter school years.