California Kills High School Exit Exam a Bit Late for 32,000 Students

Friday, October 09, 2015

State lawmakers and Governor Brown have a message for high school students who sweated over passing the statewide graduation exit exam since it began in 2004, and those who failed and suffered the consequences—never mind, they didn’t count.

The governor signed Senate Bill 172 this week, suspending the exam as a requirement for receiving a diploma until July 2018 and applying it to everyone going back 11 years. Students who qualify can apply retroactively for a certificate. Students who couldn’t get into the military, a four-year college or vocational school without the diploma a decade ago may now reapply.

Around 249,000 students have failed the exam since its inception, according to EdSource. That’s around 6% of the kids. But it’s uncertain how many of those students didn’t have the grades to qualify either. The Los Angeles Times says 32,000 may be able to get a diploma.

High schools students can take the test in various grades until they pass and for years after leaving if they are in community college or adult school.

Education Week described how the exit exam issue came to a head this year in typical chaotic fashion. The state abruptly cancelled the test for 5,000 seniors, who would be screwed without it, in anticipation of lawmakers passing SB 172 and suspending the test requirement for three years. But it didn’t.

So lawmakers conjured up emergency legislation to get those kids over the hump and then went back to work on SB 172. The bill passed along mostly party lines (Republicans opposed it) after it was amended to include the retroactive absolution. 

The state hasn’t given up on its fondness for testing students. To some extent, the exit exam fell victim to other statewide testing, for the new Common Core curriculum being rolled out nationally. The state didn’t want to be using an old test while the curriculum changed.

But there is no guarantee the exam will come back in any form. “I look forward to convening a task force of teachers, parents, students, and education leaders to find a more thoughtful approach to high school graduation requirements that better suits California’s modern education system and higher academic standards,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

California Students Who Failed Exit Exam Since 2004 Can Graduate Anyway (by Catherine Gewertz, Education Week)

Governor Signs Bill Allowing Diplomas for Students Who Failed Exit Exam (by Fermin Leal and Theresa Harrington, EdSource)

California Bill Allows Thousands to Get High School Diplomas (by Demian Bulwa, San Francisco Chronicle)

California Exit Exam Abolished, Diplomas to Be Awarded (by Sharon Noguchi, San Jose Mercury News)

Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Measure Suspending High School Exit Exam (by Melanie Mason and Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times)

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