Proficiency exam results in

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Marcella Garcia, a Carson High School senior, has better than a B grade-point average, but may not be allowed to graduate from high school.

"She is immobilized to apply for college," said teacher Anita Brooks. "She wants to be sure she's going to graduate."

Garcia was one of 41 Carson High seniors who failed the math portion of the proficiency exam in February. The exam, which students must pass to graduate, consists of three parts: reading, writing and math.

Students can take the test as juniors and take it as many times as it is offered until they pass it. The test is given in October, February, April and June.

For students who struggle with math, the bad news is that the test is going to get more difficult next year - too difficult, according to one state educator.

Dorothy Todd, Carson City's associate superintendent for education, said a large number of students pass all three portions of the current proficiency test on the first attempt.

In October, 77 percent of 11th-graders passed the reading portion of the test and 62 percent of them passed math.

She said the passage rate of the written portion of the test is generally 100 percent.

"As a rule, all of our kids pass the written test," Todd said.

However, for those who do not pass the test, there is help.

"They are getting remediation," Todd said. "If they don't pass, they are automatically placed in remediation classes. They can get additional remediation with before- and after-school tutoring."

Garcia said she studies for 25 minutes before school every day in addition to her two-hour remediation class every other day. She said the extra work is helping.

"It's getting better," she said. "I went up like 10 points. I needed two more points to pass."

She is hopeful that she and her classmates will pass the next exam in April.

"The whole class missed it by one or two points, so we're real close," Garcia said.

They will have to pass the April test in order to walk through the graduation ceremony at the end of the year.

"This February test is critical because students realize they only have one more chance to be able to walk with their class," Todd said. "Hopefully, everyone will pass it in April so they'll be able to graduate with their class and have the ceremony."

The June test comes too late for those who pass to participate in the ceremony.

Twenty-three seniors took the reading portion of the test in February and 13 passed, leaving around 10 out of 445 seniors who still need to pass the test.

State Board of Education member Bill Hanlon said he believes the current proficiency exam is reasonable, but a tougher one is coming.

"The current test is an appropriate test," he said. "I don't have a problem with not all students graduating high school. Five to 10 percent not graduating is reasonable."

Todd said last year, only one student had not passed the exam by graduation but passed it later in June.

Hanlon said a new test that will be administered starting in October 2001 will be too difficult. He said the math portion of the test will include complex concepts such as polynomial factoring and quadratic equations.

"That's just plain foolishness," he said. "I predict that less than 15 percent of students will be able to pass it."


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