The state-required test is first given to students as sophomores, but those who don't pass can re-take the test up until their senior year.
At a welcome back rally at Atwater High School in the Merced Unified School District, students and administrators had plenty to celebrate Friday.
That's because the school ranks at the top of the district for its performance on the California high school exit exam and the state standardized test.
"Our spirit is at an all-time high right now and it's really exciting to see everyone get involved," Atwater High student Daniel Motz said.
The includes the school principal, who back in May promised to paint himself in the school's colors and sport a mohawk for a month if students reached their goals.
"I use the phrase 'high school is two parts hard work and one part fun'. Obviously today is the fun part, but for most of the year we're focused on our goals, we're focused on getting better and students understand hey, this is it we're preparing you for the real world," Atwater High Principal Alan Peterson said.
Merced Unified wasn't the only Valley school district to improve its test scores. At Fresno Unified students passed at a rate of 76% for math and 75% for English language arts including a 6 percentage point increase in both subject areas at Hoover High School alone.
While the district is pleased with the numbers, Deputy Superintendent Ruth Quinto says more work needs to be done.
"It's certainly more than just a number on a paper, but a holistic view to make sure students have the right pathways and choices and also activities that keep them engaged so they can stay in school and on target to graduate," Quinto said.