SACRAMENTO — About four-fifths of California’s ninth graders took the English half of Gov. Gray Davis’ new state high school graduation test last month, state school officials said Thursday.
An estimated 395,000 of the state’s 480,000 public school freshmen took the test on March 7, the state Department of Education said.
An estimate is not yet available on how many took the math half of the new test on March 13. State Superintendent Delaine Eastin told local officials in a letter this week that she anticipates that number could be higher.
Education officials had worried that participation last month might be low because of confusion over whether or not the test will count for the ninth graders who took it.
The high number of test takers will give state officials and the testing company more information about the quality of the test, officials say.
Students who took the test will not know whether or not they passed until August. The state originally had planned to send out scores next month, but is delaying that until after the state Board of Education sets a passing score this summer.
The Legislature two years ago approved Davis’ proposal that high school students pass a new English and math test to graduate, beginning with the class of 2004, today’s freshmen.
The law allows ninth graders to voluntarily take the test, and those who get a passing grade will not have to take it again. All 10th graders who have not passed must take it next year. Students will have several other chances to take the test before graduation.
However, Davis proposed in December making this year’s test only a practice for the ninth graders. He said court decisions have said it is better to have all students subject to the test take it at one time, such as in 10th grade, to have a complete sample of students.
A bill to make the test a practice exam this year failed in the Legislature, just two days before the English exam was given. That means the test counts this year for the ninth graders.
Eastin said the test company will be consulting with a panel of teachers, administrators, parents and community members to help set the passing grade.
She plans to give the state Board of Education a recommended passing score at its June meeting. Student results would be sent to schools by Aug. 15, she said.