In an LA Times op-ed, California education secretary Richard Riordan defends the graduation exam, which requires, at most, 10th grade English and eighth grade math skills.
Some will say the exam unfairly affects low-income students and English-language learners, and thus should be lifted. To that, I rebut: If low-income students and English-language learners are disproportionately failing the test, this tells us something important — we need to do a better job teaching these students. Deploy more resources. Improve instructional strategies. Replace incompetent faculty. But do not punish the students by sending them out ill-equipped into the world. Take responsibility. Educate them.
With the latest round of testing — students get at least six chances to pass – 91 percent of students in the class of ’06 have passed. Some of those who failed didn’t have enough credits to graduate anyhow; only about 5 percent of students failed to earn a diploma because of the exam. Students who don’t want to spend more time in high school, adult education or community college programs can try the exam again this summer.
As Riordan writes, it does students no favor to send them out in the world without the skills they’ll need to get an entry-level job or take a community-college course.