The Alexandria School Board will hold extra classes in reading and math next year for several hundred high school seniors and juniors who have failed to pass state competency tests for graduation.

The classes will attempt to help about 226 city students now in the 10th and 11th grades who must pass Virginia's new minimum competency tests before they will be allowed to graduate.

About 1,708 Alexandria students already have passed the tests, according to school officials.

Students graduating next spring will be the first class required to pass the tests before being able to move to the tassle as a sign of graduation.

Last week the school board released the latest test results from city students who had previously failed the tests. Those results showed that half of the 120 students who had previously failed the state reading tests passed it this time around. Additionally, 117 of the 157 students who had previously failed the math tests passed them.

The tests were administered March 11 and 12 to students who had previously failed the tests, as well as to new students who had not taken them. Among the new students, 78 percent passed the reading tests, and 91 percent passed the math tests.

Outgoing school board chairman Alison M. May said at last week's meeting that "it's very encouraging to bring some of these students up to minimum competency levles."

May asked Assistant Superintendent Donald E. Dearborn, who coordinated the testing, to determine the attendance habits of the students who failed during the retest.

City officials maintain there is a direct relation between attendance and academic achievement. In the past, school administrators have urged parents and guardians to make sure their children attend classes in an attempt to help make the educational process successful.

Board member Lou B. Cook asked Dearborn why so many more students failed reading than math. Dearborn said he didn't know but would try to determine the answer.

School officials said last week they did not know when additional tests for next year's 11th and 12th graders would be held, or how many times seniors who have failed the tests would be permitted to retake the exam.