Tutoring, prep classes help only a few California students to pass state test

Woman with a study groupCalifornia schools offer high school students tutoring, prep classes and 2 extra years of schooling after Grade 12 to help them pass the rigorous California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE). A new report from the Public Policy Institute of California finds that these services help only 1-2% of students succeed and that tutoring seemed to be the least effective support.

To be more effective, interventions should be available to students before Grade 10 and an early warning system put in place to identify grade-6 to grade-8 students at risk of failing CAHSEE, the report says. The Institute developed a warning model that will help school districts in the state identify middle school students at risk for failing CAHSEE using only a few student variables.

“The logical conclusion is that we need better interventions in high school or new interventions that can begin to help students before they first take the exit exam in grade 10,” says the report, “Passing the California High School Exit Exam.”

“Intervening before students first take the CAHSEE in grade 10 makes a great deal of sense, especially given that the skills needed to pass both the ELA and mathematics components of the test are taught to students throughout elementary and middle school. It could also be cost effective to intervene earlier, given the high costs of re-enrolling non-graduates for up to two years beyond grade 12.”

One interesting finding from the report was that taking mathematics and English Language Art prep classes during the regular school day (as opposed to after school) and taking math classes during the summer are positively associated with passing those subjects in the CAHSEE.

About one in 16 students fails to pass the exam before the end of grade 12, according to the PPIC. Students can start taking the exam in grade 10. The state legislature has approved several state-funded programs to provide students with support services to help them pass the exam.

“Passing the California High School Exit Exam, Have Recent Policies Improved Student Performance?” by Julian Betts et al., Public Policy Institute of California, June 2012.

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