**Know-nothing diploma**

California’s graduation exam is an easy test, writes Debra Saunders in the SF Chronicle. Students who can’t pass — in eight tries — are unprepared for college and for entry-level jobs.

The math section, which tests proficiency in 10th-grade math, is multiple choice. When an answer isn’t clear, a student can factor all four possibilities to select the right answer. If students can’t find solutions with the answers in front of them — and they need to get only 55 percent right — they haven’t learned how to think critically or solve problems. (I haven’t taken a math course for 30 years, and I got 52 out of 60 answers right on the sample math test.)Of the 459,588 students who have taken the English-language arts half of the test, 81 percent passed, compared to 62 percent in math. Students who flunk a section are given seven more chances to pass.

As Ann Bancroft of the governor’s Office on Education put it, “It’s not failing the test that harms the students’ chances of success past high school. It’s not knowing the material on the test.”

Though student pass rates are improving, the state board of education is expected to delay implementation of the test for two years. Estimates are that 20 percent of students in the class of 2004, the first required to pass the exam, may fail to earn a diploma.

OK, give a certificate of completion to the nice kids who passed their courses without being able to get a 55 percent on a four-choice-per-question math exam measuring — at most — 10th grade skills. Give a certificate to special education students who simply can’t meet academic standards. But let’s try to teach that bottom 20 percent the skills they’ll need to make it in college or on the job. And let’s not pretend that we’re doing kids a favor by letting them walk away from school with a meaningless piece of paper.

How does this work?What is this exactly?

How does this work?What is this exactly?