The graduating seniors of 2006 were the first class in the state required to take and pass the California High School Exit Exam.
Half a decade later, the CAHSEE remains the final hurdle towards graduation for seniors in the Turlock Unified School District and on graduation day it makes a difference. Seniors who graduate high school but do not pass the CAHSEE are given a “certificate of completion” rather than an actual high school diploma.
Students are given several opportunities to pass the CAHSEE throughout high school.
In the last three years the percentage of students at Turlock High School who have passed the CAHSEE has increased dramatically — and last year the school saw its biggest jump to date as 83 percent of sophomores passed the English portion of the CAHSEE, up nine percent from the previous year. In Math 87 percent of sophomores passed, up 10 percent.
But THS administration, teachers and students aren’t ready to call it a victory just yet. This year Assistant Principal Marie Peterson has teamed up with THS teachers to offer a CAHSEE Boot Camp in math and English.
English instructor Virginia Barr and math instructor Scott Johnson offer a two-day, weekend blitz of instruction the week before CAHSEEs are given. Last year 60 students in each portion packed the boot camp. The camp was given to juniors and seniors in one class and sophomores in the other.
“Last year we had a lot of success with the boot camps and we plan on offering them again this year. We teach the kids test taking strategies and we teach the kids how to use those strategies on the test,” said Peterson.
Professional test preparation courses can often run hundreds of dollars, but THS offers them for free to students.
In addition to the boot camp, teachers are offering after-school tutoring for students looking to improve their grades as well as their CAHSEE scores, which ultimately are often reflected in each other.
“Tutoring has really helped me improve my grade. I come to tutoring because I really just needed the extra help in a structured environment,” said junior Alexandria Sisneros, who improved her Algebra 2 grade from a D to a C, and with further tutoring she hopes to get a B this semester. She attends tutoring for one hour twice a week.
CAHSEE warm-up questions are also imbedded with regular instruction and often teachers will use remediation and pull-out sessions to help students who are struggling in certain areas.
“All of these strategies really seemed to help the sophomores and the kids in geometry,” said Johnson.
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