---- The majority of Oceanside students who didn't pass the state's exit
exam ---- a standardized test required of all California high school
students ---- are English language learners, according to data released
Tuesday by the Oceanside Unified School District.
Sixty-six of the 119 Oceanside high school students who hadn't passed the
exit exam by March ---- or 55 percent ---- were English learners, according
to Michael Hargrove, the district's director of assessment. The exit exam
requires competency in eighth-grade math and tenth-grade English.
Superintendent Larry Perondi said recent exam data is enabling the district
to get a clearer idea of exactly how many English learners need targeted
"We're discussing getting
those kids additional tutoring opportunities," Perondi said, adding that
district officials need to communicate better with students about the value
of the test preparation courses the district offers.
"We just have to increase the job we do to make sure that students clearly
understand all the opportunities that we are providing," he said.
The problems English learners face with the exit exam aren't unique to
Oceanside. California Department of Education data show that about one in 10
seniors didn't pass the exit exam but nearly three in 10 English learners
who were seniors failed the test.
In the San Dieguito Union High School District, all 31 seniors who seemed to
be meeting graduation requirements in February but hadn't passed the exit
exam were English learners.
Advocates for English learners criticize the way the state educates and
administers standardized tests to students whose primary language isn't
"We're punishing the students," said Maria Quezada, executive director of
the California Association for Bilingual Education.
"What type of opportunity did they get to learn?" asked Quezada. "Were they
taking the right kinds of classes? Are they having access to the
Quezada answered her own questions, saying English learners have an
unnecessarily limited opportunity to learn the material they're tested on.
Quezada's organization, the League of United Latin American Citizens and
several school districts have filed a lawsuit against the state, charging it
with failing to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act in forcing
students to take standardized tests in English when they aren't
Denis O'Leary, an education adviser for the league, said 17 states that have
large immigrant populations, including New York, Florida and Texas, allow
standardized tests in students' native languages, but California doesn't,
and thereby violates federal law.
"They're presented academic instruction they don't understand," he said of
English learners. "We're asking at a minimum on federal and state tests that
we measure their academics in their first language."
Hilary McLean, a spokeswoman for state schools Superintendent Jack
O'Connell, said O'Connell realizes that English learners who recently
started learning the language may have a more difficult time performing well
on the exit exam.
But, she said, O'Connell urges students who have had problems passing the
exam to pursue other options the state offers, such as staying in high
school for a fifth year or going to an adult school, or community college
where they can get the skills they need to get competitive jobs.
"The remedy for these students is additional education," McLean said.
-- Contact staff writer Keith Rushing at (760) 901-4151 or