CONTACT: Valerie Martinez, Juliette Funes (909) 445-1001

WHITTIER, CA – Students at the Whittier Union High School District continue to raise the bar for college- and career-readiness, with the latest state data showing more students than ever taking Advanced Placement exams, passing the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) and narrowing the achievement gap.

“Thanks to a dedicated faculty and staff, we have continued to enjoy unprecedented success in raising student academic performance at every school,” Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson said. “And, as we shift from the California Standards to the new Common Core State Standards, we remain committed to providing students the high-quality instructional programs they need to continue to thrive.”

In spring 2014, California schools tested a new computerized assessment aligned with the Common Core, and did not report standardized test scores in English and math. But Whittier Union still showed significant gains in student success on a variety of academic performance measures.

Test Scores Rising

Students in grades 10 through 12 took a record-breaking 3,814 AP exams in 2013-14, according to the latest District figures. That’s up 12 percent in just one year and almost double the number in 2008. The AP program allows students to take college-level courses. Those who receive high scores on their exams can oftentimes qualify for college credit.

Similarly remarkable advances were made by 10th-graders taking the CAHSEE.

In 2013-14, 87 percent of Whittier Union 10th-graders passed in English language arts and 91 percent passed in math – handily topping Los Angeles County and statewide averages, according to state data.

The District’s CAHSEE performance has grown tremendously since the test was first administered in 2001 – with passing rates for 10th-graders rising 34 percent in English language arts and taking a startling 146 percent leap in math.

By the time they end their senior years, virtually all Whittier Union students meet CAHSEE requirements, with 99.9 percent passing the English Language portion of the exam and 99.94 passing the math section.

Narrowing the Achievement Gap

CAHSEE scores also demonstrate a steady closing of the achievement gap at Whittier Union, especially for low-income students, who constitute 68.8 percent of the student population, and Latinos, who make up 87.1 percent.

In math, low-income and Latino students closed the achievement gap to just 2 percent in 2013-14 with their white peers, who make up 9.4 percent of the District’s enrollment. In all, 91 percent of Latino and low-income 10th-graders passed the math section.

In English language arts, 87 percent of Latino students and 86 percent of low-income students passed the section, narrowing the achievement gap with white students to 6 and 7 percent, respectively.

Meeting Additional Targets

The District also tracks engagement of students through attendance and “On-target” rates, which measure the percentage of students who complete the expected credits at each grade level to stay on target to graduate with their peers.

Both numbers show steady gains over the years:

  • 2013-14 Attendance rate: The District averaged a 96.2 percent attendance rate. Campus figures range from 95.31 percent to 97.22 percent.
  • 2013-14 On-target rates: 96.5 percent of 11th-graders, 90.8 percent of 10th-graders and 91.7 percent of ninth-graders completed the expected number of credits to ensure they graduate with their class – representing growth at every grade level.

Thorstenson credited the student successes to the District’s faculty and staff’s commitment to its “Whatever It Takes” initiative, launched 12 years ago.

“In a ‘Whatever It Takes’ community, the support our kids receive is based on what they need to succeed,” Thorstenson said. “We have made enormous progress in each measurable target because of the commitment of our teachers, staff and administrators to providing the highest quality academic, social and personal opportunities to every student who walks through our doors.”