California’s high school exit exam: out the window?

The 10-member Legislative Budget Conference Committee, which is reviewing Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget proposals, voted yesterday to suspend California’s controversial high school exit exam requirement through 2012-13.

This is not set in stone — the budget still has to make it through the Assembly and Senate — but it’s unlikely that a cut already agreed to by the Dems (six of the 10 budget conference committee members are Democrats) will be restored under these fiscal conditions.

This means, of course, that next year’s juniors and seniors who have yet to pass both portions of the test would be off the hook. Sophomores would still take the test, but if they fail, it wouldn’t count against them, and they wouldn’t have to retake it.

State Superintendent Jack O’Connell is a huge supporter of the CAHSEE, which went into effect for the Class of 2006 and tests students on low-level math and 10th-grade reading concepts. He issued a release saying:

“The budget conference committee’s decision today is a huge setback for California students. The implementation of the California High School Exit Exam is the greatest high school reform effort we have made in a generation. The argument that our expectations should be lowered because of budget cuts to public education heaps insult on injury to students and teachers who are being impacted by the budget crisis. I guarantee that businesses in our state and around the world are not lowering expectations for their employees. This exam helps focus attention and resources on students who are struggling. We will do a grave injustice to our students if we do not ensure that they have the minimal skills needed to survive in the increasingly competitive global economy.

Not everyone shares O’Connell’s zeal for the test. Most recently, a Stanford University study that analyzed the graduation rates of struggling students of all ethnicities found that the exam hurt girls and non-white students the most.

Do you agree with the committee’s decision? You can find all of the committee’s actions so far, here.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nextset

    This is interesting. The main conclusion is that the results of the test – “the truth” – is too painful politically for the elites. So the tests had to go.

    Without the tests the CA High School diploma becomes worthless as a credential. Credentialing then drops down to which High School diploma you have. So a Piedmont High School diploma becomes an entree to a job interview and a OUSD diploma application goes into the trash.

    Actually we already see this happening.

    Some people are more equal than others.

    brave New World.

  • turner

    I do not agree. We finally have something that gauges their level of skills. We need to know who is struggling. How can we help them if we don’t? If they are failing now, and we don’t deal with it, then they will be the losers of the future. It’s a bad idea to get rid of the exam.


  • oak261

    The CAHSEE is a rather low standard. It is a joke among the upper third of kids academically. They tend to pass it easily in 10th grade.

    Anyhow, it measures something, and unfortunately, too many don’t pass it.

  • Katy Murphy

    Jack O’Connell sent out the below statement this afternoon about Schwarzenegger’s opposition to the exit exam cut. If the governor threatens to veto any bill that includes such a suspension, maybe it won’t happen after all.

    State Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Praises Governor for Opposing Elimination of California High School Exit Exam Graduation Requirement

    SACRAMENTO – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell today issued a statement commending Governor Schwarzenegger’s stated intention to veto any budget agreement that would eliminate the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) as a condition of graduation:

    “Governor Schwarzenegger has been a committed advocate for high expectations for all students in California. I applaud him for pledging to oppose any budget plan that would to do away with the CAHSEE as a condition of graduation for our students. The exit exam requirement is a cornerstone of our high school accountability reforms, and I share the Governor’s view that its elimination would be a massive step backward for our K-12 public education system. We cannot allow this budget crisis to become an excuse to skirt our responsibility to ensure that all students graduate with at least the minimum level of skills that will help them to survive in the increasingly competitive global economy. I will continue to work with the Governor and the Legislature to reach a budget resolution that protects education and maintains our commitment to improving student achievement and closing the achievement gap.”

  • Pastor Cheryl Ward

    What would happen to the kids who did not pass it since its inception? So many students have not passed and still do not have their diplomas. The system did not make provisions for students who were not adequately prepared to take the test. It never addressed students who had passing grades but were unable to pass the test. None of these factors meant that these students were not viable candidates for employment. We failed these students!!!!!

  • Nextset

    Pastor Ward: Actually the flunking students failed their teachers. As failures they have no place in the graduation ceremonies, except in the audience.

    The school districts, the taxpayers, certainly have no further obligations to people who after all these years reach age 18 unable to pass a test set at 8th grade level. Compulsory education is now ended. They are on their own.

    If they are not viable candidates for employment – they should look to themselves as to why. Other people pass, they didn’t. Wonder why? Was it that they didn’t have the brain processing speed to manage an 8th grade level in math and verbal skills? Perhaps but I rather doubt it. Was it that they had insufficient concern for their future and obedience to the teachers that caused them to fall below this simple level? Most likely. It’s up to them to become employable. Good luck to them.

    I believe if the schools provided sufficient carrots and sticks most of the students would do much better than they manage at the present. I don’t believe OUSD is willing to take a stick to these kids. By that I mean to even be cross with them. To speak to them in a relatively severe manner (like the Irish Nuns did to me and my fellow students). At one extreme they should have been culled previously and put in special schools better suited to them. This is normal in Europe and would have provided clear warning of their status in the world if they didn’t change.

    But I can’t have much pity of these failures now because OUSD, their families or somebody didn’t get them off their rear ends enough to manage 8th grave verbal and math skills. My concerns now are rather on their younger siblings still locked in the failure factories that must change. The 18 year old losers are just out of luck. They must take their place in this Brave New World.

  • vanessa

    i thik this i very unfair i was a highschool student and had to take it once this “requirment” is so stupid that it started in 2006 and now your tryin to take it off u have to leave it because its not fair to all those people before that didnt pass and could not graduate because of this “test” that is really pointless

  • Nextset

    Vanessa: Are you over age 18? Your writing appears to be that of a child. Did you pass the test and graduate?

    Are you employed? How do you make your living?

  • vanessa

    Yes iam over 18 Who are you to judge me your no one what does it matter to you if i did or did not pass.which yes i did,your are a very erragent person to be saying this to me if all i am trying to say is how i feel about it. do you have a problem with that?
    its you irratatin and self centered people that our economy is like this you guys think you know it all but you guys dont!

    oh by the way i attend usc and i have a job at the same time so do not be trying to judge me

  • Gordon Danning

    Pastor Ward:

    Wouldn’t we also be failing students if we gave them HS diplomas, despite the fact that they are unable to master 8th-grade math? Obviously, we would. And, after all, the lack of a HS diploma is hardly the end of the world; it is not an impediment to attending a community college, for example.

    And, honestly, the CAHSEE is absurdly easy. Dropping it means that we have no standards at all.

  • Nextset

    Vanessa: Why am I not surprised you passed the high school exit exam…? I have heard it was set at 8th grade level due to political concerns that the originally proposed 10th grade cutoff would flunk most of the minorities. It was decided it would be better to just “graduate” them than to create an uproar by enforcing standards.

    Your writing as a “college student” appears very childish. So much so that either USC has no standards or you are not what you claim. You would not have been allowed to graduate from my high school writing like this and we had no exit exam at that time.

    Good luck in the Brave New World. You will be finding that people being asked to pay you, say $65K a year in salary and benefits will not tolerate 8th grade level performance. Not at all. And it won’t matter what scrap of paper you present as “qualification”.

    What college classes are you currently taking anyway?

  • Pepe

    Nextset, you really need to stop bullying people. There are ways of saying things, and you just do not seem to care to take the time to figure out how to provide effective feedback.

    Are you single? I would not be surprised if you are. Your writing appears to be that of someone who does not know how to maintain relationships. Are you a parent? How do you know anything about child development?

    Good luck welcoming your Brave New World solo. You will be finding that people reading your posts will not tolerate your predictable and one-track writing. Not at all. And it won’t matter what profession you are in or what experience your family members had that you present as “qualification.”

    Are you unemployed? How do you spend so much time posting on this blog anyway?

  • Harold

    Its hard to edit your posts, when using a mobile device.

    … just sayin’

  • Nextset

    Pepe: Remember a few things.

    Most people like me – older, educated, high earning, etc. will not ever tell you the way it is. We will either ignore you completely or just say something simple and non-controversial and walk on by. Those who repeatedly tell you what you want to hear usually are stringing you along because they want something – that can be as little as wanting you to be quiet.

    Vanessa’s appalling presentation is something I have seen before especially in black students who have been strung along since 1st grade by teachers who only want them to be quiet and don’t care what happens to them really. These appeasers will not even tell them to get out of the street so they don’t get run over. I get to see these kids race to their destruction. As adults they are so badly brought up even when they are warned they are playing with fire, they can’t stop doing it.

    I went to East Bay Catholic Schools run by Irish and Italian Nuns who not only could scream at you if they saw something they considered failing but they’d smack you one for emphasis. Then I went to very competitive High School where no quarter was given by the students or the faculty. So I wasn’t raised to suffer fools at all nor to say nice things to make other happier. It wastes my time and yours. When you engage with me that’s how it is. I deal with people who are in terrible trouble all the time. Funny thing is that many of the the siblings and cousins have wound up in similar occupations. While many of my older relatives were educators because that was a safe respectable black profession, my generations which was the first to go to white schools tend to fight for a living. And we all have sharp elbows. So I offer that as an explanation not an excuse. I think I am a lot nicer than some of the trauma surgeons. Maybe you are used to dealing with black folks who are more insular, controlled, typical?

    You are just not used to dialog with someone like me. You are perhaps more comfortable with educators who make nice. To each his own. I for one remember certain teachers and many parents of my classmates who spoke just as I do now. And I remember how they interacted with me like this rather than just talking nice and pleasant all the time. They were WWII types. Many of them worked their way from simple backgrounds to high in business and professions. Maybe you haven’t encountered the personalities I’m referring to. Except here.

    I see people who march to their doom and the black ones are marching faster. I think their public schools failed them. I see red every time I have to deal with it. Let’s face it. The race of the crook/litigant/victim not only is correlated with what they are in court for but what their results tend to be, especially long term. Too bad, So sad.

    Vanessa – well she is typical – a product of the public schools. Where do you start? Maybe if somebody tells here that there is a big problem, she will change – get some help or something. I hope so. I do know that for all the Vanessas in college there is usually no one willing to say a discouraging word until it’s really too late for them.

    During the fat times through 2006 marginal people got by and others were willing to carry them. Things are about to get much more rough. Some people are going to be roadkill fast. I really don’t care about your opinion that I’m not being pleasant enough for your ear. This isn’t a tea party and I’m not a guest in your home. It is time to start talking bluntly about how things are. And how some people had better change.

    “Change” like getting a better grip on the English language. And not expecting anyone to put up with failures. And not expecting any good school to hand a diploma to someone who can’t read and write well.

    I am not here to pat you on the head. I am here to debate policy. This thread is on the High School Exam. I’m here to say that that exam is a joke only intended to deny diplomas to the manifestly incapable. It is our public school policy to “graduate” people who read and write at childish levels and to (falsely) tell them they have accomplished something. As a result the High School Diploma is insufficient to qualify a worker for entry level positions in non physical labor jobs and employers have to use other means to screen incoming workers. Like which school they went to (race?). Or a telephone test. Or a million other subtle tests. Good schools would improve the chances for our minority students. These Urban Public Schools schools don’t actually credential anyone anymore.

  • le1212

    Katy, thanks for posting the good news! As Steven Krashen says, the CAHSEE is a waste of $150 million each year.

    Some members of the private sector will be quite distressed by discontinuation, as their paychecks will shrink…test developers, private tutoring services, computerized test prep companies, etc.

    And radical conservative think tanks will moan about this, also, as they lobbied long and hard to stuff harmful accountability models into public education.

    When we study radical market economics, we can locate media releases about the “education crisis” in the domain of value>resources>reputation. The play is to continually release information (e.g. low graduation rates, etc.) that harms the reputation of public education. Economists have thoroughly studied reputation and know reputation is harmed by only a few negative comments. As parents begin to question the effectiveness of schools, pure market dynamics are triggered and parents seek options, or choice. This is the context of media attacks on public education.

    Students and public education benefit by stopping the CAHSEE. This worries privatization proponents who want to transform public education into private profit.

    Now, ya’ll get ready for March 4th!!

  • Angela

    My daughter has yet to pass the Math portion of CAHSEE.
    It is insane, she is now out of High School without her diploma and will continue to retake this test until she passes.
    It sickens me that our children are being punished for the educators inadequacies. She has been enrolled in the classes which are there to help her pass and those classes did not help.
    She worked her butt off to take her grades from “F”s the 1st semester to “B”s and “C” by year end.
    I was proud of her accomplishment and its not enough per CA bureacratic standards. She is not worthy of a diploma just yet.
    I will pay for private tutors so she can reach her goal that CA school district failed.

  • Lauren

    Am I the only one who thinks that this test is a giant waste of time and money? I mean it tests JR. HIGH level skills! So a twelfth grader can do 8th grade work? Yeah? So? What point does that make? It certainly does not show to me that the student is worthy of a high school diploma. If this test tested 12th grade math and 12th grade English then I would support it 100%. This test should ONLY be administered to EIGHTH GRADERS to see if they qualify to get into High School.

    The fact that this test is taken seriously and used to determine if someone deserves a high school diploma is a BIG JOKE. I hope all of you are actually capable of seeing this. If I were an employer and saw an applicant with a High School diploma from CA, I would not assume that they were educated beyond an 8th grade level. Tell me how this is helping the kids?