California’s exit exam was reinstated as a graduation requirement by the state Supreme Court, which ordered a state appeals court to hold hearings on the case. Several news stories say it’s not clear what the impact will be on the students — about 10 percent of seniors — who haven’t passed. It seems clear to me: They don’t get diplomas, though they may get a “certificate of completion” at the district’s discretion.

Like TMAO of Teaching in the 408, who’s torn about the test, I suspect most of the students who’ve repeatedly flunked this basic skills test don’t have the credits to graduate. I’d love to see a story explaining how students passed algebra, a state-mandated course in California, but can’t pass a multiple-choice math exam that covers elementary and middle-school skills and requires only a 60 percent.

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  1. Wayne Martin says:

    The average 2005 CST STAR Test score for Algebra I (9th grade) for 248,000+ students was 304 (BASIC skill level). (The bottom of this skill level starts around 300.)

    It would be really interesting to see how these CST/MATH test scores map into GPAs in the various schools.

  2. Robert Wright says:

    We should consider adopting a two diploma system.

    Diploma A goes to students who aquire a high school education.

    Diploma B goes to students who pass their classes.

  3. dogbert2 says:

    Actually, two of the justices which heard the appeal from the state suggested this very thing (that is, full diploma (passed all classes and all required examinations for graduation) or basic diploma (passed all classes only).

    We had proposed something like that here in Nevada, but our legislature had no appetite for such foolishness (in retrospect, this is actually a good approach, due to the fact that adding endorsements to a diploma is not unheard of, and that official transcripts could let a person reviewing it know if the student passed or failed the exit exam).

    Hopefully the appeals court will reach the same conclusion as the supreme court did (way to go, supremes)!

  4. In other words, diploma A says you’re actually educated to a certain extent, diploma B that you can show up and sit around in a room being bored for years (which actually is sufficient qualification for many low-paid jobs). It’s a better deal for employers than having all H/S diplomas meaning “B”, and having to require a college degree when you need employees with a 10th grade education…

  5. Do diplomas truly have a value beyond the person who holds them? Is there any job, anywhere in the country, for which a person must *produce* a diploma before getting hired?

    I know the military will only take about 4% of its recruits without diplomas, but do people really actually show recruiters or induction officers diplomas?

    I’m on record as supporting a “certificate of completion”, but the more I think about it, the more I think it’s part of our “everyone’s a winner” mentality that gives every kid who played little league a trophy for participation.

  6. Darren,

    When I entered the Air Force back in 1978 I was asked to have a copy of my transcript sent to the recruiter. I do not remember them asking for a copy of my diploma.

    Not sure how it is now.

  7. You may not have to physically produce the diploma but any employer who hires on a regular basis will ask where you went to school and then will check on the information as to diploma or degree. I have seen people fired because they claimed a diploma or degree without having completed it. It is considered lying on the application and is a valid reason for firing someone.

    In addition, with all the requirements for diversity and hiring only people who are legally available for jobs and the fines if you don’t check all the bona fides, the employer is an idiot if he does not check the records for his employees. This goes from high school to college to post-grad. Look at the problems Ward Churchill is having with all his lying and validly so. The state of Califoria would be doing its graduates no favors by going to a split level diploma.

    As the commenter above says you can hire someone who actually proved he could do the work or you could hire someone who occupied space for the required period of time. Which would you rather hire and which would you prefer to know about going into the process. If you can spend 12 years in school and at the end not even get a 60% score on the equivalent of 7th grade, there is something definitely wrong there, either in the person or in the school system. Best that gets fixed soonest.

  8. The lead attorney against the exit exam, Gonzalez, wrote: “As of the start of the current academic year, fewer than half of California high schools had taught all of the course material that is tested on the exam,” Gonzalez wrote. So would Mr. Gonzalez do us a favor and give us the list of 900+ high schools that claim to be high schools and yet do not teach 8th grade Math and 10th grade English. I am sure a lot of parents want to know.

  9. donaldkunz says:

    I don’t have a problem with the two diploma system, as long as all concerned knows what each means. When I graduated from high school in New York State in 1967, I received a diploma issued by the high school and a Regents diploma issued by the state. The latter was required for admission to a State University of New York college, and was earned by passing a specified number of subject exams administered by the state (Regents exams). Many teachers used the Regents exams as final exams, whether or not every student was working towards a Regents diploma.

    I don’t know if that system is still in place, since I haven’t lived in NY in 35 years; but it seemed to be a practical, workable method for giving each high school to set local standards and for the state to enforce statewide standards.

  10. Wayne Martin says:

    > So would Mr. Gonzalez do us a favor and
    > give us the list of 900+ high schools that
    > claim to be high schools and yet do not
    > teach 8th grade Math and 10th grade English.

    The CA.DoE releases API (Academic Performance Index) data yearly via its WEB-site. Only about 1/3rd of the schools achieve a score of “PROFICIENT” (800). Parents can check their own school’s API score via the CA.DoE WEB-site, or their own school’s WEB-site.

  11. trotsky says:


    Friends I knew were still sweating their Regents exams in the late ’80s.

  12. SuperSub says:

    Donald and Trotsky-
    The Regents are still alive and kicking… just that now all mainstream students are required by the state to have Regents diplomas to graduate. Special Ed students are allowed to graduate with only “local” diplomas.
    As a result of the expansion of the degree, there has been a loss of prestige marked by a decrease in the difficulty of many exams. The past years’ math Regents have been a mess… resulting in the state re-grading/curving the tests to ensure that students could pass it after the fact.

  13. >The CA.DoE releases API (Academic Performance
    >Index) data yearly via its WEB-site. Only about
    > 1/3rd of the schools achieve a score of
    >”PROFICIENT” (800). Parents can check their own
    > school’s API score via the CA.DoE WEB-site, or
    >their own school’s WEB-site.

    This tells you in a particular school, the average Nth grade student, who may or not been taught Nth grade course material, is proficient in the course material. This is different from Mr. Gonzalez’s claim that in 50+% of the schools, the 12th grade students have not been taught all of the 8th grade Math course material and 10th grade English course material.