SANTA CLARITA – Although the state has released estimates of how many seniors passed last week’s high school exit exam, it will be at least two months before students learn their official test results. Letters should arrive at home in late May, about the time when graduation ceremonies are gearing up at California’s public high schools, and most seniors are anticipating the end of their high school careers. But about 11 percent of the Class of 2006, largely poor and minority students, won’t receive their diplomas in June because they haven’t passed one or both parts of the test, according to figures released by the state Department of Education. An estimated 20 percent of California’s African-American students, 31 percent of second-language learners and 18 percent of economically disadvantaged students have yet to pass the whole test, according to state officials. In comparison, about 94 percent of white students have passed the exam. “These new numbers shine a harsh light on an achievement gap that we must address,” said Jack O’Connell, state superintendent of public instruction, in a news release. “We need to work together to find successful interventions for these groups of students because these gaps are unacceptable.” Starting with the Class of 2006, high school students are required by law to pass the two-part English and math test. Passing scores are 55 percent in math and 60 percent in English. Last week, sophomores took the two-day test for the first time, and juniors and seniors who’ve failed one or both parts of the exam returned for another try. High school students have six tries to pass the test. Although nearly 90 percent of students in the William S. Hart Union High School District pass the exam as sophomores, those who don’t pass usually get stumped on the essay or with algebra questions, said Vicki Engbrecht, director of curriculum. “Some of the students have the skills to pass but become very anxious when they know that graduation is hinging on passing one particular test,” she said. About 200 Hart District seniors have yet to pass the test, with nearly one-half of them special-education students who may be exempt from it this year. The rest are largely second-language learners who are waiting for their results from last week’s test. The state leaves it up to each school district to create policies concerning seniors who don’t pass the exam before graduation time comes. At the Hart District, those who don’t obtain passing scores by June can still sport a cap and gown and participate in the Hart District’s graduation ceremonies as long as they’ve completed all other graduation requirements. Instead of diplomas, those students will receive certificates of completion, Engbrecht said. This year, Golden Oak Adult School created a new prep state-approved course for students who’ve completed all graduation requirements but haven’t yet passed the exit exam. The class begins in the fall and folds in students preparing for the General Equivalency Diploma test, said Principal Lynda Rick. All California adult schools are expected by the state to create similar prep courses to help these fifth-year seniors. The influx of 18- and 19-year-olds will change the student body at adult schools, which for years have traditionally included older students who want to finish high school. “Normally a student who doesn’t graduate or drops out experiences life on their own and decides to come back later,” Rick said. “But this will put more people at our doorstep.” Sue Doyle, (661) 257-5254 [email protected] AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!