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.