Member-supported news for Southern California
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Support for KPCC comes from:

LA Unified high school exit exam pass rate dips slightly, gaps by ethnicity continue

Superintendent John Deasy walks through an economics classroom at Los Angeles High School during a surprise visit.
Tami Abdollah/KPCC
Superintendent John Deasy walks through an economics classroom at Los Angeles High School during a surprise visit.

More than 87 percent of Los Angeles Unified high school seniors set to graduate last spring passed the California high school exit exam, down slightly from 2013.

That compares to the more than 95.5 percent of seniors statewide who passed the test, which is high but on par with last year, according to data provided Friday. Also released were school by school reports.

Differences between whites and black/African American students and whites and Hispanic/Latino students remain an issue both statewide and for L.A. Unified, although rates have improved for the nonwhite groups.

Students must pass the California High School Exit Exam to receive a high school diploma. Based on old graduation requirements, the exit exam is due for revision or replacement with the transition to new, more rigorous Common Core state standards. The standards establishes what children should know in English language arts and math at different grade levels.

“I am pleased California’s high school students continue to pass this graduation exam at record rates,” state superintendent Tom Torlakson said in a statement. 
Black and Latino students are passing the exit exam at higher rates than in recent years. About 8.5 percent more black students statewide passed the test compared to the previous year, and Latino students saw a similar increase.

However, the statewide gap between white and black students and white and Latino students remains in the double digits. (Charts below show statewide exit exam pass rates for the class of 2006 to class of 2016.)

The exit exam covers 10th-grade level English material and eighth-grade level math topics. Students take the exam in 10th grade and must retake it if they fail either section.

California seniors in the class of 2006 were the first to be required to pass the exit exam in order to be granted a diploma. Pass rates for graduating seniors have risen 5.1 percent since 2006, according to the California Department of Education.

For L.A. Unified, the achievement gap for black and Latino students also persists as shown in numbers combining math and English language arts for 12th graders.

“We held mostly steady for the year, but when you look at the historical trends, we’re making great progress in preparing our sophomores and other students for graduation,” said L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy in a news release.

But he acknowledged: “There’s no doubt that we have more work to do in serving our historically-underserved students, and we are committed to doing so."

L.A. Unified is not alone among school districts needing to work on exit exam performance.

Pass rates at Montebello Unified still lagged. Roughly one in five 10th graders didn’t pass the test last school year.

“It gives us something to shoot for,” said Montebello Unified Deputy Superintendent Art Revueltas at an event inaugurating a Career and Technical Education project in his school district.

Revueltas added the school district is still struggling to raise exit exam pass rates for students whose home language isn’t English. It’s a problem statewide, as well -- state officials said about 80 percent of English-learner seniors last school year passed the exit exam.

Exit exam questions

Here is a sampling of the questions asked in the 2007–08 school year exit exam. Submit your answers in the comments section. Answers will be posted Monday.


• Which expression represents 0.0000007 in scientific notation?
A 7×10−9
B 7×10−7
C 7×107
D 7×109

• Sally puts $200.00 in a bank account. 
Each year the account earns 8% simple 
interest. How much interest will be 
earned in three years?
A $16.00
B $24.00
C $48.00
D $160.00

• The square root of 150 is between—
A 10 and 11.
B 11 and 12.
C 12 and 13.
D 13 and 14.

English language arts

• A few years ago, _________ attended the 
same school together. 
A me and her 
B she and I 
C she and me
D I and she 

• _________ going to sample different kinds of juice, aren’t they? 

A Their 
B There 
C They’re
D They


• Which expression represents 0.0000007 in scientific notation?
B 7×10−7

• How much interest will be earned in three years?
C $48.00

• The square root of 150 is between--
C 12 and 13

• A few years ago, _________ attended the same school together. 
B she and I

• ._________ going to sample different kinds of juice, aren’t they? 

C  They’re