Bill to end high school exit exam advances

Gov. Jerry Brown and state schools chief Tom Torlakson have made plain for years they want no part of the education reform agenda touted by President Obama and think tanks backed by Bill Gates. The state has not pursued federal Race to the Top funds, which were meant to incentivize grant recipients to measure teacher effectiveness. Most school districts effectively ignore the Stull Act — a 1971 state law requiring that student progress be part of teacher performance evaluations — and face no push-back from the governor or Torlakson.

cahsee.testNow the Legislature has taken a first step toward bailing out on another part of the reform agenda: mandatory high school exit exams, which began in California in 2006 and were supposed to ensure a high school degree meant something. On a party-line 6-2 vote, Democrats the Senate Education Committee this week approved a bill by Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, that would scrap the state’s high school exit exam beginning with the class of 2017. Liu, a former teacher and teachers union official who represents the Pasadena area, chairs the committee.

Cabinet Report had more on her measure and a big complicating factor: What to do about students who were denied diplomas in the past because they failed a test that the state may abandon:

The legislation … that would suspend the state’s exit exam also calls on education officials to reconsider how students in the state are deemed not only ready to graduate but to lead productive lives afterward.

The question of whether to issue diplomas retroactively did come up when the bill was being drafted, according to a Liu staffer, but the provision was not included in the legislation.

Opponents of handing out diplomas retroactively to thousands of people who failed the test argue that it’s not necessary because there are several opportunities to continue retaking it, even years after graduation, and doing so cheapens the value of the diploma as a gauge for prospective employers.

Others, however, say these one-time exams provide little evidence that the person passing them is academically prepared for college and/or career.

Indeed, despite a 95.5 percent passing rate for California seniors last year, a study by the Legislative Analyst’s Office found that over 50 percent of the state’s high school students are in need of remedial work when they arrive at community colleges.

Independent evaluation praised effect of exit exams

However, the Senate bill analysis noted praise of the exit exam and its impact.

According to independent evaluations conducted by the Human Resources Research Organization, California’s high school exit exam has served a valuable purpose by ensuring students demonstrate competency on standards, providing remediation opportunities prior to grade 12, and helping to overall narrow the achievement gap between subgroups. … A very strong relationship was discovered between CAHSEE achievement and college enrollment.

Liu’s measure, Senate Bill 172, will next be reviewed by the Senate Appropriates Committee.


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  1. abinc
    abinc 20 April, 2015, 09:45

    The students who fail the CAHSEE can take it repeatedly until they pass it. After age 22, they are classified as “adults” and have a fee to pay to retake. The test is based on 8th grade material. CA has already reduced the graduation requirements from 240 to 220 units. Each course is 5 units so the state has wiped out the need for four courses, normally electives like computer science, etc. They have already terminated “hands-on” or vocational training classes. And we know that when the stated mission is “to make students college or career ready,” that is code for “gettin’ them out of high school with a diploma whether they know anything or not!” Community colleges in CA have a plethora of remedial courses for incoming students who can’t compose a proper sentence in English, can’t multiply two numbers and who can’t read above the second-grade level. Jozef Essavi, a former candidate for Los Angeles Community College Board pointed out that 72% of incoming students fail to graduate (a two year program) after FIVE YEARS! And bear in mind that a high school diploma is not a requirement for entry to a community college if you are over 18 years of age. The CAHSEE is a bad, meaningless joke. And the so-called “officials” who are pushing for it’s removal don’t have the welfare of the students — or the society — at heart. No, it is about money. By cutting back on academic rigor, but giving the appearance of achievement (i.e. — increasing the number of high school diplomas) these people can strut and brag how great they are, while using the “saved” money to buy votes for themselves. And the students? They can THINK they have gotten an education, but in reality they are borderline illiterate and will be unable to progress in a world that requires true skills. What is needed is really simple: (1) Scrap the meaningless CAHSEE, (2) Emphasize academic rigor (3) “Encourage” parents to monitor their children’s school work and legally define “neglect” to include failure to assure that their children are exhibiting just minimal effort in school. (4) BRING BACK VOCATIONAL TRAINING IN SCHOOLS! Do these things and the high school diploma will start meaning something again.

    Reply this comment
    • Jay
      Jay 30 July, 2015, 17:29

      My PRINCIPAL thinks it’s a meaningless joke! What does that tell you?? I’m in my 2nd year of college, on the Deans Honor roll & the only thing holding me back from my diploma is that math part. Not everyone has a strong point in that area, and I’m already TAKING math in college! So why the stupid test? To prove that my past teachers didn’t teach me anything??? I’m GOOD at algebra, but that thing has college level crap on it! What a waste of educational money AND to pay the person to sit there and play on his phone while students take the test. Get rid of it. I already have my completion certificate! People work too you know!

      Reply this comment
    • Blue Dahlia
      Blue Dahlia 28 September, 2015, 13:42

      I agree. I work in public schools.Not every one is going to go to a 4 year university or take on a white collar job. still blue collar job require that employees be able to fill paperwork. Many of the 12 grade students I work with are reading at a 4th grade level and they simply don’t have to improve because teachers will just give them credit for showing up even if the work is remedial. Its the nice-guy syndrome. In reality they are creating a society that cannot survive in a real working world.

      I just don’t understand why it is going to take the state 3 years to revamp the high school exit exam. We are already trailing in education standards beyond underdeveloped countries that have an illiteracy issue. I can barely get my students to write an essay. It’s a sad state for the State of California and for the country as a whole. Our education system is so watered down its pathetic.

      Reply this comment
  2. Hondo
    Hondo 20 April, 2015, 22:33

    I agree with abinc. A High school diploma should mean the student is ready for a job that pays MORE than minimum wage. K through 12, that is 13 years of education ( not counting pre school), should prepare a student for a higher rate of pay than minimum. Minimum wage should be for those who didn’t finish school. Not every kid should go to collage. Even if he isn’t dumb. If a kid had the last 2 years of high school studying to be an electrician, when he graduates he would walk into a apprentice job of at least 12 bucks and hour and within a couple years become a journeyman making at least 20 bucks an hour. That’s at 20 years of age and those are realistic numbers.
    But California has the highest paid teachers and some of the worst test scores in the country.
    We are letting our kids down here, big time.

    Reply this comment
  3. desmond
    desmond 21 April, 2015, 03:59

    Stockton just gave all existing teachers a13.5% increase for next year. The union head was livid this wall all they could get. It is great we pay teachers like Finland. What do we get?

    Reply this comment
  4. eck
    eck 21 April, 2015, 21:09

    Well, yeah, the CASEE is already a joke, since it essentially just measures whether one is sentient. But (see teacher’s union backing) this bill just says, “who cares, just give them a diploma”. Until the teacher’s unions lose their lock on the politicians (and presumably, the electorate), there will be NO change to the dismal status-quo of education in this once grate state. The “Peoples Republic” of CA.

    Reply this comment
    • Queeg
      Queeg 22 April, 2015, 08:55

      We need service workers for the service economy……we need customers for the welfare industrial complex……soon we will have enough Comrades too!

      Reply this comment
  5. pandamomof 3
    pandamomof 3 14 August, 2015, 21:12

    I think it is ridiculous my child is required to pass the CASEE’S if they have all the credits needed to graduate and have passed all their classes why take a test to exit High school.when I graduated in 84 we didn’t take a exit exam and some went to college and have great job and other joined the work force and are successful also.Our parents did the same .It puts unnecessary stress on student’s and if the don’t pass they feel as if the work they did the last 3 years where for nothing.

    Reply this comment
  6. TW
    TW 16 October, 2015, 00:38

    For me, I’m 18 and every other school I’ve gone to, besides the one I just transferred to, have never taught me what I’ve needed to know in order to pass the CAHSEE. Last year I was close to graduating and passed the English portion with a B but failed the math portion by 2 points. So in my case I am intelligent enough to pass the CAHSEE, but the test is flawed in some areas. If they were to improve the test rather than eliminate it, then it would not be a problem.

    Reply this comment

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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