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Despite rocket fire, the number of Sderot students who passed matriculation exams jumped to 67 percent last year from 46 percent the year before, according to Education Minister Yuli Tamir.

In a meeting yesterday in the Prime Minister's Office with local government leaders and education institute directors from Gaza-area communities, Tamir said the "assistance and personal guidance programs provided to high school students achieved their goals."

The Education Ministry also notes that Sderot high schoolers received no broad assistance in the exams. The English-language matriculation exam will be held as scheduled today. Students who do not attend due to the security situation will be tested another time.

At the meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told school officials: "I understand the distress you're living with. I know what it means for a child - even if no Qassam falls on his house - to hear the strikes and go to sleep with fear."

Tamir said that in addition to new testing dates, the ministry will examine the gaps between classroom grades and exam scores for Sderot students who take the English matriculation exam today. "We have an unequivocal commitment that students aren't hurt by the situation."

The 67 percent rate of passing exams is considered high in general. "There are no magic solutions here. We wanted to prove that despite the situation it is possible to succeed at matriculation exams," said the Education Ministry's Amira Haim yesterday. She said the only assistance offered to test-takers was extra time if a rocket struck during the exam.