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Pass Rates for Foreign Language and Geometry Countywide Exams Display Differences in Achievement

May 26, 2000
Students passed the countywide semester exams for high school foreign languages at a rate of 83 percent and honors geometry at a rate of 92 percent, but the pass rate fell to 55 percent among those students taking the regular geometry course.

The new data is contained in a report to the Board of Education that provides data for individual high schools on all three exams.

The different passing rates in geometry reflect the same differences in the passing rates in algebra for the first semester this year among those students who took the accelerated program in middle school and those who took the regular course in high school. The accelerated students passed the exams in both algebra and geometry at high rates (87 and 92 percent respectively). By comparison, the regular algebra and geometry courses had passing rates on the semester exams of 36 and 55 percent respectively.

Significant differences in achievement were also evident in scores disaggregated by race and ethnicity, although less so among students on the foreign language exams.

The foreign language exam used a pass/fail threshold score of 55 for the first semester that will be raised to 60 for the current second semester exams. The threshold score was 60 for both the regular and honors geometry courses, the same minimum score used in the semester exams for algebra.

The following is the countywide results on the foreign language and geometry exams:

* The foreign language exams (combined for French and Spanish) had a pass rate of 83 percent countywide. The pass rate was 68 percent among African American students, 86 percent among Hispanic students, 89 percent among Asian American students, and 87 percent among white students.

* The pass rate for the honors geometry exams was 92 percent countywide. Among African American students, the pass rate was 76 percent, 84 percent among Hispanic students, 92 percent among Asian students, and 95 percent among white students.

* In the regular geometry exam, the pass rate was 55 percent countywide. The pass rate was 34 percent among African American students, 36 percent among Hispanic students, 67 percent among Asian American students, and 69 percent among white students.

A more detailed review of student performance is underway. In addition, new initiatives involving teacher training, summer school intervention, and the assignment of instructional specialists beginning this summer are focused specifically on algebra and mathematics. The initiatives are part of a carefully phased-in plan for improvements in reading, writing, and mathematics systemwide and support for the elementary and secondary instructional program. This includes extensive teacher training and development, early childhood education, and community partnerships.

In addition, the Board of Education recently authorized Phi Delta Kappa International, a major educational research organization, to conduct a comprehensive audit of the entire Kindergarten through twelfth grade mathematics curriculum. The audit, which will be completed this summer, will address the question of whether the school system has a challenging curriculum and an operationally sound instructional management and delivery system.

The specific exam data or each test, disaggregated by high school and race and ethnicity, can be found on the follwing websites. There are three sites. The first site contains the results for the regular geometry exam at .

The sites for the other two exams are listed below:

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