Emergency exit

Although 93.3 percent of California students now pass the exit exam by spring of their senior year, Democratic legislators, the California Teachers Association, the California School Boards Association and the California Federation of Teachers want an alternative.

“This bill really is about a higher and richer standard,” said Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, a Santa Monica Democrat who said her Assembly Bill 1379 is designed to complement the exit exam — not eliminate it.

The hardest questions on the exam ask for 10th-grade reading and eighth-grade math skills; students need a 60 percent in language arts and a 55 percent in math to pass. It’s a four-option multiple-choice test. Students can take it six times, starting in sophomore year. Most eventually pass the reading test but continue to struggle with the math, even though mastery of elementary math and guessing on harder questions should generate a 55 percent. What “higher and richer standard” could these students meet? What standard would they meet if they knew they could get a diploma by an easier route?

Not all students necessarily receive equal learning opportunities with qualified teachers and adequate support systems, so it’s unfair to use a single test to deny diplomas, said Liz Guillen of Public Advocates, a civil rights law firm.

I think it’s unfair to give them diplomas and send them out in the world without basic literacy and math skills. But it’s a lot easier to base a diploma on inflated grades, projects or “coursework portfolios” than to get low achievers caught up. Students who can’t pass the exit exam on repeated tries will not be able to pass “alternative tests that are aligned to state content standards and as rigorous as the exit exam.” They don’t have the skills.

The governor vetoed a similar bill last year; he’ll almost certainly veto this one.

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  1. wahoofive says:

    Would it be unreasonable to require “eighth-grade math skills” to graduate from EIGHTH GRADE?

    Everyone is aware that high school graduates do better in life than those who don’t graduate; what’s missing is the distinction between having a high school *diploma* and having a high school *education*.

  2. I think I see an equation here.

    Democrats + CTA + Civil Rights Lawyers = Pandering to hispanics by dumbing down tests.

    There are two types of racism in this country: Politically Incorrect Racism vs. Politically Correct Racism, of which this shameless patronization is one example.

    Question: What is meant by “adequate support systems.” It sounds as if Liz Guillen is describing a certain bridge over the Mississippi that recently collapsed. Whatever the distinguished attorney means, I’ll bet it involves large amounts of State and Federal funding to fix.

  3. There’s clearly a dilemma here: we need to have kids in classrooms for 12 years or so, but what is really the purpose? Clearly, without attendance, fewer funds flow into teacher’s union coffers, truant officers [do we still have tme] would be out of a job, and teacher would be out of jobs. I’m not endorsing that last one by any means.

    But after sitting in classrooms for some 13,000 hours, what should we expect a high-school graduate to know? And be able to do? Is a diploma little more than a t-shirt reading “12 years of school and all I got was this lousy t-shirt”?

    There’s a recent YouTube post, “Ms Teen USA, So. Carolina, answers a questsion”, that highlights the shaky state of education – at least, in South Carolina..

    Clearly, not everyone leaving high school heads for Harvard or Yale. But every one of them should be able to do at least 10th-grade things, like balance a checkbook (or know when you don’t have to), read the fine print in a contract (on paper or online), figure out which of two financing offers is better, why “20% More!!!” says nothing, … little things like that.

    As far as “adequate support systems”, Ms Guillen should consider the systems exemplified by Asian and Jewish families (among others), in which parents instill dedication, curiosity, achievement, and hard work into their kids.

    Maybe she would be content if our kids spent those 13000 hours listening to rap music, watching NBA games and NASCAR races, and deciding who the “American Idol” winners should be.

    Besides, if kids get a diploma anyway because “it’s just too hard”, does it follow that businesses that hire them will give them the same pass?

    And how does a “civil-rights law firm” find opportunity in the education field (outside of “Brown vs Board of Education” issues)?

  4. I understand that freshman are not permitted to take the test … is it on the grounds that it would be embarrassing to demonstrate how low these standards really are?

    diplomas should not be certificates of attendance.

  5. Cardinal Fang says:

    “93.3 percent of California students now pass the exit exam by spring of their senior year”

    That’s a huge overestimate. How many students drop out? A lot more than 6.7%.

  6. You’re right, Fang. It’s 93.3 percent of students who make it to senior year.

    In 2000-01, ninth graders took the California graduation exam: 64 percent passed English and 44 percent passed math. Taking the test was voluntary, so it’s possible the test-takers were better than average students. Legislators thought it was too traumatic for those who didn’t pass, so they decided students would take the test for the first time in 10th grade.

  7. In California, Eighth graders take Algebra, so be aware when they say 8th grade math, they mean Algebra I.

    That said, we have eigth graders leaving middle school who haven’t memorized the multiplcation tables, learned basic arthimetic skills with fractions or even how to read an analog clock.

    I really hate teachers who blame the teachers before them, but I really wonder sometimes just exactly what is happening in the elementary schools today……..


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