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Christina Hoag the Associated Press
Published: 24 August 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The pass rate for California's high school exit exam increased slightly for the class of 2012, marking the sixth straight year of gains, state education officials announced Wednesday.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson told a news conference that the pass rate rose 1 percentage point to 95 percent.

The most significant gains in the California High School Exit Examination pass rate were recorded by African-American and Latino students -- 91.9 percent of black students passed the test, a gain of 2.3 percentage points from the previous year, while 93.1 percent of Latino students passed, up by 1.4 points.

Torlakson noted that the so-called achievement gap between black and Latino students and their white and Asian counterparts has been steadily closing.

The pass rate for white students was 98.6 percent, while 97.8 percent of Asian students passed.

The exam, which comprises math and English language arts, is a state requirement for a high school diploma and is taken by California's 10th-graders.

If they do not pass, students receive remediation and take the exam again in 11th and 12th grades. The pass rates are not the same as the state's graduation rate because they do not reflect the number of students who drop out and do not take the test.

Torlakson also released figures showing that California students who took the ACT college entrance exam in 2012 scored significantly higher than the national average.

In English, 72 percent of California students met the ACT benchmark score, compared to 67 percent nationally, while in math 58 percent passed the benchmark compared to 46 percent nationally. Similar gains were also seen in reading and science.

Torlakson said the increased scores on both exams are all the more noteworthy because they come after four years of significant decreases in state funding of schools, causing overcrowded classrooms, materials shortages and program cuts.

``I believe we're in fiscal crisis,'' he said.

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