PICO RIVERA – El Rancho High School senior Alfred Perez’s future had been on hold for months while he waited for the results of the California High School Exit Exam. On Friday, Perez finally learned that just two points separate his and his family’s dream of watching him walk across the stage to accept his diploma at this year’s graduation ceremonies. For Perez and other seniors like him who have passed all their classes but failed the exit exam, the test feels like a bitter and unfair pill. This was the first year the exit exam became a requirement for graduation. It was implemented in 1999 by the California Department of Education. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2“I feel terrible about not being able to walk in the ceremony,” said Perez, who passed the math section of the test but failed the English portion. “My mom was mad about the test, but she was mostly mad at me. I don’t like it. It seems unfair. I passed all my credits, but my graduation rests on this test.” Although nearly half of the state’s seniors who failed the test are classified as English learners, the rest are general education students like Perez who speak English as their primary language and are not learning disabled. Since his first failed attempt to pass the test as a sophomore, Perez has been steered by school officials into intervention programs. “It was exhausting,” he said. “I did study a lot and I had after-school classes to help me pass. I think they were helpful in some cases, but I could have used more practice on reading comprehension.” But some students experience difficulty with such life-defining tests, no matter how well-prepared they are, said Lonnie McConnell, area superintendent for the John Glenn family of schools in the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District. “I have a little problem with \ because any time you base everything on a … multiple choice test, the questions can be tricky and it takes a certain strategy to do well,” McConnell said. “To base a whole high school career on the test is a problem. I’m not opposed to some kind of test, I just don’t like this one.” McConnell said before the standards tests were implemented in California, the schools gave exams that were more interactive than today’s typical multiple choice exams. “The students had authentic tests, which had them actually perform some function, like a science experiment, and the math had hands-on manipulative aspects to them,” he said. “It showed more what a student was capable of. This test doesn’t tell us what they can do.” Julie Ellis, principal of El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera, supports the idea of a final test as a way to establish a common rubric among all high schools. “I think \ is a reasonable expectancy, but I understand the issues for this first class,” Ellis said. “Did we do enough to prepare for the test? We really targeted this class by offering all kinds of intervention classes, tutoring, remediation. But it’s never enough.” Ellis said, district-wide, only 15 of 637 students failed the exit exam in November of this current school year. And with Thursday’s release of the March test results, that number had dropped to 10. Perez was among them. The exam is based on a 10th-grade knowledge level of math and English skills. While many explanations exist for students’ testing woes, sometimes it comes down to simple effort and the developmental stage a teen is in, Ellis said. “The students need to apply themselves 100 percent,” Ellis said. “I believe sometimes they don’t always take education so seriously as they need to in the beginning and that it’s part of a maturity process. “Some will find education to be a much more beneficial experience five years from now, when they’re more mature,” she added. Perez said he will enroll in summer school remediation classes aimed at fixing his weaknesses in English. He and the other nine students who failed the exit exam will have an opportunity to try again in July, said Ellis. [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!