Today a California judge will decide whether the state’s graduation exam is fair to students who made it through school without mastering basic reading and math skills. Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle thinks ignorance is no excuse.

Arturo González, the attorney who wants to overthrow the exit exam requirement, has argued that the test isn’t fair because schools are not equal. Judge Robert Freedman of Alameda County Superior Court apparently agrees. The judge will issue a final ruling on Friday, but already has said he is inclined to grant an injunction to allow seniors to graduate even if they failed the eighth-grade level math test, the 10th-grade level English test or both.

It’s sad but true: All California schools are not equal. The question is: What do you do about the inequity? Do you sanction the inequity by allowing students to graduate ignorant? Is that fair? Or do you require that all graduates be able to read a news story and know what it means when a sale sign says “25 percent off?”

Only the hardest questions require 10th grade English and 8th grade math skills. And these are four-option multiple-choice tests with a pass rate of 60 percent for English, 55 percent for math. Students who can’t pass after multiple tries have skills so poor they desperately need another year of high school, adult education or remedial classes offered by community colleges.

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  1. This same judge should grant me a position on the Olympic team, since it’s not fair that I’m not young, slim, and toned.

  2. dogbert2 says:

    I would hope that if the judge suspends the exam that it only apply to the students who are in the lawsuit and not statewide. The concept that students can and will jump up and down to get what they want (regardless if they are qualified for it or NOT), seems to be the way our society thinks anymore.

    If a student cannot pass an exam which has a minimum score of 55% in math (a F on standard grading scales), and 60% in english (that’s a D- on standard grading scales), then they don’t deserve a diploma no matter how high their GPA’s are (with the help of grade inflation, no doubt).

    It is a sad state of affairs that when someone doesn’t get their way, they always file a lawsuit, how about they learn a valuable lesson (life isn’t fair…)

  3. I think it’s an opportunity for some enterprising entreprenure.

    How much would it cost, I wonder, to get rolls of toilet paper printed with a reasonable facsimile of a California high school diploma?

  4. While the schools may not be equal, are they at least all capable of teaching up to the standards of the test?

    That’s the only standard that should be applied.

    Otherwise if the judge finds they aren’t capable of teaching up to those standards, they ought to be closed and all students issued vouchers good for one(1) quality education at the school of their choice.

  5. Wayne Martin says:

    Could this same logic be used to sue against Schools that deny diplomas to students who fail to pass the necessary coursework? If this stands, it would seem that anyone who had the money to hire a lawyer to argue that he was “denied access to an equal education because …” would be able to prevail against a school that was trying to impose high standards on its students, or even moderate standards for that matter.

    According to the CA.DoE WEB-site, the Superintendent is “fighting” the ruling.

  6. Walter E. Wallis says:

    A pity judges don’t have to pass a test.

  7. There is no penalty for wrong answer. So a toddler answering randomly can get 25%. A student who knows the answer to 40% of the math questions and answers the rest randomly would pass the test.

  8. How much cheaper would it have been to allow these kids to blow off school from kindergarten on? Same educational result either way.

    I just filled out a primary ballot. No candidate who mentioned school funding got my vote.

  9. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    How many activist judges does it take to screw in a light bulb? More than how many it takes to screw up public education (you guessed it…..only one).

  10. dogbert2 says:

    Well, according to the ruling just handed down, it looks like Judge Freedman (also under investigation by the state judicial board mind you) has blocked the exit exam in California.

    All this says to the 89% of the students who passed the exam is that “Don’t worry about hard work, just file a frigging lawsuit, and you’ll get what you want…”

    The state will appeal the ruling (of course), but as it stands, california will hand out more worthless diplomas (I liked the comment about using toilet paper to form a diploma, because that’s about what it is worth to anyone with some common sense.

    Hopefully, this judge will be kicked off of the bench, but in order for that to happen, he’d probably have to murder someone (grrrrr).

  11. This is ridiculous. I agree with you, dogbert. If a student cannot get the equivalent of D or F grades on these exams, he/she does not deserve a diploma. Period. Good grief–you could learn the material on your own (through the library or over the Internet). And, actually, why don’t these students sue the schools instead for not doing their jobs? Although chances are that most of the schools in question don’t have a lot of money, so that’s probably not a good idea.

    I was arguing about the exit exam with a lady I’m helping in conversational English. Her reasoning against the exit exam was that the high school diploma didn’t mean anything, anyway. I said, “Exactly! That’s what the exit exam is trying to do–restore some meaning to the HS diploma.”

  12. BadaBing says:

    So if someone fails to pass the CBEST in Kalifornia, he can sue. What a great scenario. Teachers who couldn’t pass the CBEST teaching kids who don’t have to pass the CAHSEE. It’s obvious we need more ed funding and after school programs. Steve Westley for governor.

  13. If the high school diploma continues to become more and more meaningless, then employers will protect themselves by shifting a higher and higher proportion of jobs into the “college degree required” category.

    Does this increase or decrease social mobility?

    The answer should be obvious even to a California judge…

  14. dogbert2 says:

    Actually, that is already happening, the term is known as educational devaluation (current research shows that jobs which would have required a high school diploma in the 20th century now require a college degree in the 21st century).

    In addition, some studies also show that a high school diploma from the 1960-1980 period is about the same as a college degree issued today based on overall tests of general and subject specific knowledge.

    This will lead to few and few students being able to obtain college degrees since the costs have become prohibitive (far outstripping the cost of living adjustment and earnings of most families).

    Just another way help students by trying to boost their self-esteem (bunch of malarky, if you ask me).

  15. According to one report I’ve read on the plaintiff in this suit is that she was _sixth_ in her class. Obviously, her school has totally failed her (and the rest of their students) if a student sixth in the graduating class lacks 10th grade English skills. Grade Inflation, anyone?

    However, unless this wrong-headed ruling is overturned on appeal, the net value of a California high school diploma will effective vanish. How does this serve the student?

    I think I’m long past the point where I think public education can be reformed and salvaged. We’ve got to quit feeding the 800 pound pig in the trough and find an alternate system, out of bureaucratic control (or lack thereof).

  16. dogbert2 says:

    It is definately grade inflation…when I graduated from high school in 1981, I had a GPA of 2.04 (Average student)…ranked in the middle of my class, but I also took the following subjects in school:

    Algebra I/II, Computer Math, Geometry, Trig

    Earth Science, Chemistry, Physics, Biology I/II, Anatomy and Physiology.

    English I/II (failed eng II, had to repeat a year of it), American Lit, and compostion.

    World History, US History, US Gov’t

    Health, Career Education, Drivers Ed.

    Now, with my “Average GPA”, I’m sure I could probably outperform the plaintiff (with her 6th in her class status and over-inflated GPA) and this without studying for the MATH or ENGLISH portion of the exam.

    One thing is for sure, if i’m able to pass the exam with my mediocre GPA, the taxpayer is getting the shaft in california and probably most other states.


  17. I think the comments condemning the judge miss the point. The point is, that students go through X number of years of elementary/secondary education and aren’t being taught/learning the fundamentals. The judge is merely drawing the conclusion that this is a fact. The JUDGE is not failing the students — the schools are.

    And, yes, I’m beginning to think that class action lawsuits are going to be necessary to wake up the school districts (and parents; and this will also be at the college/university level): Disruptive students will once again have to face expulsion; teachers will have to provide evidence of mastery of general education and specific subject matter; students should be tracted into ability levels, so that the lowest IQ/behavioral quartile doesn’t set the learning pace.

    These three things would improve the educational/learning environment of probably 75 percent of students with very little (if any) additional dollars required.

  18. But the judge is undercutting one means of bringing some accountability to the situation. If there’s no way to distinguish good schools from bad, how can bad schools be avoided and thus, forced to improve or die? How can a district be forced to improve if there’s no “compass” that points in the direction of improvement?

    The judge deserves the criticism for not just overstepping his authority but also for undercutting the concept of school accountability.