Semester Exam Passing Rates Rise in Key Subjects

June 13, 2003
The passing rates on the first semester exams in five key high school subjects increased this past January, even as the number of students tested grew in each course, according to a report prepared by the Office of Shared Accountability. The courses are Algebra 1, Geometry, Biology, English 1 (ninth grade), and National, State, and Local Government (NSL).

The exams are an important measure of student readiness for state assessments in these same key subject areas. Data from the first semester exams will be correlated with the second semester tests being completed next week and the state assessments taken last month.

The systemwide passing rate for the Geometry semester exam rose by 10.5 percentage points to 68.6 percent. In Biology A, the passing rate increased by 8.1 percentage points to 59.6 percent. In English 1A, the rate increased by 2.3 percentage points to 86.3 percent. Moreover, in NSL, the passing rate gained 6.2 percentage points to 77 percent.

In Algebra 1A, the high school passing rate of 50.4 percent was slightly higher compared to the previous year of 50.2 percent. However, in this course there were more students tested in middle school, than in high school (6,010 students in middle school, compared to 5,818 in high school). The middle school passing rate for the Algebra semester exam was 93.3 percent.

In addition, there were 1,134 students in middle school tested in Geometry A, and they achieved a passing rate of 98.1 percent.

The report noted that “students who are better prepared academically tend to enroll in mathematics and science courses earlier and to perform better on final examinations than those who enroll in the same courses in higher level grades.”

The report also noted that final examination passing rates for African American and Hispanic students in high school were one-half to two-thirds as high as the passing rates of white and Asian American students, depending upon the course. In Algebra, for example, the passing rate among African American high school students was 37.5 percent, compared to 65.9 percent among white students.

However, in middle school, the passing rates among African American and Hispanic students were considerably higher. For example, 81.5 percent of African American middle school students passed the Algebra exam, compared to 96.5 percent among white students.

The report includes systemwide and individual school results disaggregated by gender, by race/ethnicity, and for students receiving special services including participation in the Free and Reduced-price Meals System, English for Speakers of Other Languages, and special education.

The complete report is available on the school system's web site at the link below.

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