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California School Fiscal Services

Providing comprehensive business office and consulting services to K-12 traditional schools and charters



Decision by California education officials to cancel high school exit exam creates chaos

Posted on August 18, 2015 at 11:15 AM

For those of us that have been "around" for a while, it almost becomes routine to see landmarks come and go.  The CAHSEE is definitely one of those landmarks.  Over the years, so much effort has been put into getting our high school students prepared to pass this courses were created, curriculum purchased, additional staffing hired.  

It's sad that it will end like this, under a cloud of doubt and accusations of mismanagement.  I think it's important to remember that the decision to create and maintain a test that literally impacts every student's ability to graduate from high school is enormous.  After all, a high school diploma is the end game for the entire K-12 experience.  

What is the lesson here for all of us?  Is it to put our heads down and follow the rules, even when they don't work for students any longer?  Or is to make a bold move like San Francisco Unified and say "no more".  I don't know the answer to this question but I think it's worth taking a few minutes to think about it. 

Read on......


SACRAMENTO -- A hasty decision by California education officials to cancel the final high school exit exam for the Class of 2015 has unwittingly prevented several thousand students across the state from graduating.


The state considers the exit exam outmoded and intends to ditch it altogether, but legislators haven't yet altered state law requiring students to pass the test. That has left in the lurch seniors who met all other requirements and planned to take the exit exam this summer before starting college this fall. More than 300 students from San Francisco and Oakland alone are affected.


"The state has not left the school district or the students any attractive options," said Troy Flint, a spokesman for the Oakland Unified School District who noted that many of the district's 221 students affected are immigrants who have struggled to learn English.


"These children are victims of bureaucratic mismanagement," Flint said.


To make matters worse, the exam is effectively obsolete because its questions are aligned to a math and language arts curriculum that hasn't been used in California schools for several years. That's why lawmakers are considering a bill to eliminate the requirement to pass the test.


San Francisco's school board Friday decided to "go rogue" and defy state law by eliminating the exit exam requirement. That will mean 107 students who haven't passed the exam will receive their diplomas. Scores of the students received them Friday evening at a special board meeting.


"It was tears, it was hugs, and I think there was a lot of disbelief," said Richard Carranza, superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District "It was incredibly powerful. That's why I'm a teacher in the first place, to see students walk across the stage. It's why we do what we do."


Unlike San Francisco, Oakland is not planning on bending state law and issuing diplomas out of fear that heavy fines and the withholding of state funding could potentially affect the entire district, Flint said.


Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris on Friday condemned the situation and pledged to resolve it as quickly as possible to ensure that students are able to pursue their dreams in college, the military or the work force. Failing to fix the mess right away creates "real and immediate harm for these students," Harris said.


Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, issued a joint statement Friday promising to introduce "urgency legislation" as soon as Monday -- when the Legislature returns from its summer break -- to help as many as 5,000 students "stuck in bureaucratic limbo through no fault of their own." It would take lawmakers at least a week to move such a bill to Brown's desk for his signature.


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a statement that he is working with lawmakers and leaders of the University of California and California State University to ensure students aren't denied entry to college solely because they haven't passed the exit exam.


"No student's dream of a college education should be delayed because of an anomaly," Torlakson said.


Education officials had scheduled the July test, but in June they canceled it.


Torlakson said the July exam wasn't offered as it had been in previous summers because the state canceled the $11 million-a-year contract it held with Educational Testing Service, the company that has long administered the exam.


"Most of the cost in conducting an assessment is in developing the test," said Keric Ashley, a deputy superintendent at the state Department of Education, so the cost for just one administration of the July test "would have been very expensive."


Sophomores at Monterey High were taking high school exit exams March, 9, 2011.

Indeed, the contract won't be needed if lawmakers pass Senate Bill 172, sponsored by Sen. Carol Liu, D-Glendale, and suspend the requirement to take the test for three years. But the California Department of Education apparently did not consider the immediate impact that decision would have on students who banked their futures on passing the exam in July.


Some other Bay Area school districts weren't hit as hard as Oakland and San Francisco. Only two students in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, for example, failed to graduate because they didn't pass the exam. Many other Bay Area school districts did not respond to requests Friday to provide the number of students affected by the state decision suspending the exam.


So far, UC isn't aware of any students having had their admissions offers rescinded for not passing the exit exam, said Dianne Klein, a spokeswoman for UC's Office of the President. And if they learn of any students affected by this problem in the coming weeks, their enrollment in classes this fall will not be canceled, Klein added.


CSU officials could not be reached for comment.


The California High School Exit Examination, dubbed CAHSEE, has been criticized by social justice advocates since it was first offered more than a decade ago as a test that sets an unfairly high bar for English-language learners and students living in poverty. Students take the test for the first time in grade 10. If they don't pass, they can take it twice in grade 11 and up to five times in grade 12.


Rosa De Leon, of the grass-roots advocacy group Californians for Justice, said she hopes students are able to take the test or get the requirement waived, but she also hopes the state will can the exam altogether.


"Not having to take the exam is not taking away from the students," De Leon said. "It's actually opening up opportunities for youth that have trouble with taking standardized tests."


Contact Jessica Calefati at 916-441-2101. Follow her at

Categories: Supporting Educational Support Systems

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