In order to successfully prepare for the California High School Exit Exam (HSEE) students must receive appropriate instruction aligned to state content standards covered by the test. The knowledge and skills assessed on the statewide HSEE are cumulative and therefore compel San Diego City Schools to prepare students to achieve a basic level of mastery in literacy and monitor student progress toward that goal over time on a district-wide formative assessment that will be called the English End-of-Course Exam (EEOCE). This evaluation is a report of the progress made in the pilot year, 2001-2002.

Ten pilot teachers constructed the questions for the mid-term in early January. The technical construction of questions for this test of a basic level of literacy mastery parallels the type and proportion of questions that measure the ninth/tenth grade California literacy standards on the High School Exit Exam (HSEE). Similar to the HSEE, the English end-of-course exam (EEOCE) consists of multiple-choice questions and two written essays (Analytic essay; Persuasive essay). The mid-term pilot was administered to 265 students on January 28 & 29 in 12 ninth-grade classrooms. Literacy Department staff scored multiple-choice items and teachers scored written essays. Three different teachers scored each written essay. Teachers were therefore immediately informed about their student’s performance on the written essay section and were also given a way to understand the performance of other students in other classes.

Teachers reported that they changed their instruction due to their engagement with this pilot year process. Teachers also reported acquisition of knowledge about standards, test construction, student performance, and the need to better prepare students to achieve on state standards. For example, one teacher wrote to us:

I am in the midst of teaching summer school therefore unable to visit you but I would like to keep you abreast of the new activities at our site. Since my work began with you, the Pulliam Group has been invited to our campus to assist in designing our long term plans to align the Exit Exam with the standards and our curriculum. Graphs, charts and units are being compiled for reference and design. I am also part of the district wide GATE teacher component that is aligning the units of study, standards, and curriculum with the exit exam. It isn’t often that the answer to a call produces such positive results. In this case, the work that I did with you and Brenda Bilstad led me down a path that I would have missed. Thank you (Gompers High School teacher, June 25, 2002).

Teachers gained a way of thinking about instructional change that is based in a diagnostic assessment and is linked to state standards. Their practice began to change immediately as they graded each other’s student essays. After some initial surprise over struggling reader student performance, plans were made for instructional change. By the end of the year, teachers were much more savvy about literacy reform and how it should be implemented in their classrooms.

Purpose of the Evaluation

The HSME is part of an ongoing effort in San Diego to design a comprehensive district-wide assessment system that is aligned to state standards and academic frameworks. The alignment of state and city tests in English/language Arts to state content standards provides a common base of understanding as to what students should know and be able to do in these subject areas in each grade level being assessed. The purpose of this evaluation is to understand to what extent the pilot year of the English End of Course Exam development process has helped the district to support teachers and students in understanding and attaining state standards:

  • Help teachers to be more knowledgeable about state standards.
  • Help teachers to diagnose student performance on state standards
  • Improve instruction through immediate grading and feedback
  • Help students prepare for California High School Exit Exam (HSEE)