Last week, an Oakland superior court judge struck down the Golden State's mandate that all high school students pass the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) to graduate. The class of 2006 is the first to face the requirement. Consequently, the more than 46,000 students who repeatedly failed the state's reading-and-math exam (which tests prospective high school graduates on middle school level knowledge) will now receive a meaningless diploma. Judge Robert Freedman defended the decision this way: "There is evidence...that shows that students in economically challenged communities have not had an equal opportunity to learn the materials tested." He's correct-no one can defend the shoddy education that many public school districts provide-but the solution is not for the state to lower its exit expectations. State Superintendent Jack O'Connell, who authored the graduation requirement during his tenure as a legislator, said California will appeal the decision in an effort to "maintain the integrity" of the test, but this matter will likely linger in the courts for a long time to come. Students have multiple opportunities to pass-and this year, the state provided an additional $65 million to tutor struggling seniors. Russlynn Ali, director of Education Trust-West, points out that without the exit exam, "We have even less leverage to...ensure that all students master the basic skills they will need to succeed in college and in the workforce. If we lose the CAHSEE and the accountability attached to it, we fear that we also lose the attention, focus, and resources it brings to bear on the students and schools who need the most help." Here's hoping that someone in the state's vast judicial system has the sense to listen to Ms. Ali.
"Calif. Judge Throws Out Exit-Exam Requirement," by Linda Jacobson, Education Week, May 15, 2006, (subscription required)
"Judge says California exit exam is unfair," Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle, May 9, 2006