CA Will Give Free High School Diplomas To Kids Who Flunked Out

The state of California is poised to award thousands of high school degrees to dropouts by passing a new law retroactively removing the requirement to pass a high school exit exam.

college graduate student educationThe California High School Exit Exam (CASHEE) was created in 2004, and is intended to make sure that students have a rudimentary grasp of English and mathematics before being awarded a high school diploma, and to counter the phenomenon of students receiving passing grades while learning almost nothing. The test is hardly complex. The math test, for instance, only covers 8th grade-level material and can be passed if students answer 55 percent of questions correctly. About 80 percent of California high schoolers take and pass it on their first try while in the 10th grade, and overall passage rates for the class of 2014 were above 97 percent.

But now, a bill passed Thursday by the California legislature, which Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign, suspends the exam through 2018, while also retroactively suspending it back to 2004. That means thousands of students who failed to ever pass the exam but otherwise completed all other requirements will now be able to receive diplomas.

According to SFGate, about 40,000 people will benefit from the change by becoming newly eligible to graduate. The number could be higher, though, as249,000 students failed to pass the test by the end of senior year from 2006 to 2014.

CASHEE was already scheduled to be on hiatus for several years while educators created a new test more in line with Common Core, which California has adopted. But the exam caused a ruckus over the summer when the state abruptly canceled a summer administration of the test and left several thousand students unable to graduate. Lawmakers moved quickly to let 2015 graduates receive diplomas without the test, but Brown then urged them to go further, and allow all prior students to receive a diploma as well.

Opposition has come from California Republicans, who argue that the test is remarkably easy and giving diplomas to those who can’t pass it will simply devalue California diplomas in general.

“It is not that rigorous,” Sen. Bob Huff told SFGate. “At least it’s something that we have a measure that they met some educational requirements. I think it’s a dumb move.”

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

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New bill seeks to terminate CA high school exit exam

Gov. Jerry Brown and state schools chief Tom Torlakson have made plain for years they want no part of the education reform agenda touted by President Obama and think tanks backed by Bill Gates. The state has not pursued federal Race to the Top funds, which were meant to incentivize grant recipients to measure teacher effectiveness. Most school districts effectively ignore the Stull Act — a 1971 state law requiring that student progress be part of teacher performance evaluations — and face no push-back from the governor or Torlakson.

cahsee.testNow the Legislature has taken a first step toward bailing out on another part of the reform agenda: mandatory high school exit exams, which began in California in 2006 and were supposed to ensure a high school degree meant something. On a party-line 6-2 vote, Democrats the Senate Education Committee this week approved a bill by Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, that would scrap the state’s high school exit exam beginning with the class of 2017. Liu, a former teacher and teachers union official who represents the Pasadena area, chairs the committee.

Cabinet Report had more on her measure and a big complicating factor: What to do about students who were denied diplomas in the past because they failed a test that the state may abandon:

The legislation … that would suspend the state’s exit exam also calls on education officials to reconsider how students in the state are deemed not only ready to graduate but to lead productive lives afterward.

The question of whether to issue diplomas retroactively did come up when the bill was being drafted, according to a Liu staffer, but the provision was not included in the legislation.

Opponents of handing out diplomas retroactively to thousands of people who failed the test argue that it’s not necessary because there are several opportunities to continue retaking it, even years after graduation, and doing so cheapens the value of the diploma as a gauge for prospective employers.

Others, however, say these one-time exams provide little evidence that the person passing them is academically prepared for college and/or career.

Indeed, despite a 95.5 percent passing rate for California seniors last year, a study by the Legislative Analyst’s Office found that over 50 percent of the state’s high school students are in need of remedial work when they arrive at community colleges.

Independent evaluation praised effect of exit exams

However, the Senate bill analysis noted praise of the exit exam and its impact.

According to independent evaluations conducted by the Human Resources Research Organization, California’s high school exit exam has served a valuable purpose by ensuring students demonstrate competency on standards, providing remediation opportunities prior to grade 12, and helping to overall narrow the achievement gap between subgroups. … A very strong relationship was discovered between CAHSEE achievement and college enrollment.

Liu’s measure, Senate Bill 172, will next be reviewed by the Senate Appropriates Committee.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com