Students more prepared for test after class

Photo by Rick GunnVictor Garcia, 17, looks over the proficiency exam workbook at the Carson High School Tech Center on Thursday.

Photo by Rick GunnVictor Garcia, 17, looks over the proficiency exam workbook at the Carson High School Tech Center on Thursday.

Victor Garcia, 17, has taken the proficiency exam twice and both times he failed it . He's hoping the third time will prove the charm -- but he's not leaving it up to luck.

"I'm learning everything I need to know like fractions and degrees and all that stuff," he said. "It's mostly geometry and algebra where I had problems. But I feel like I'm going to pass."

Garcia spends more than three hours every weekday at the high school in a class designed to help students pass the math portion of the proficiency exam, a requirement for graduation.

Amy Jennings, 18, knows the stakes attached to the four-part exam, testing students' knowledge in math, reading, writing and science.

Despite completing all the other requirements for graduation from Carson High School, she failed the math portion of the test and was barred from participating in commencement exercises.

After taking the course, which ends today, she is ready to face the exam once more. It will be administered Wednesday through Friday.

"I feel better after practicing more," she said. "I feel pretty confident."

Her confidence is not unfounded.

Math teacher MaryAnne Weaver said about two-thirds of her students enrolled in last summer's class passed the exam after completing the course.

Although some students have to be in class as early as 7:30 a.m. during their summer break, Weaver said the schedule helps make the class successful.

"Kids want to be here because they want to pass that test," she explained. "It's an entirely different mentality than regular class. They're more willing to ask questions because they're all in the same boat -- it's makes it easier for them to make mistakes and not be intimidated."

Weaver gives students a mock exam at the beginning of the session to determine their strengths and weaknesses. Practice tests are administered every week, then the same mock exam is given at the end to mark their progress.

"I've had kids with as much as a 29-point improvement," she said. "Some jumped 22 points but are just not quite passing.

I know some of them will pass, some are still real borderline -- I'll say an extra prayer for them."

Rachael Ridgely, 16, took the class during the school year and saw her math score improve by 10 points.

It was not high enough to pass, but it was still a marked improvement over her first attempt where she missed it by "like a lot, a lot. I didn't even make it halfway."

Bethany Goodale, 18, is anxious to put the skills learned in the class to the test.

"It's taught me a lot about what I need to know," she said. "I'm excited to take the test and see how I do. I feel equipped."


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