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.