Then I thought about it some more. The law requiring an exit exam was passed in 1999. Schools with large low-SES populations get plenty of Title I money. Is someone really going to try to claim that with 7 years' notice, with extra money, and with multiple opportunities to take a test, that schools exist that can't get students to pass a test of 7th grade math and freshman English? Honestly, the most difficult questions on the test involve 8th grade algebra (only a few of those) and 10th grade English. Do schools exist that are really that bad?
US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings would say yes, it's entirely the school's fault. The Education Wonks (see blogroll at left) are on a jihad against her, in part because she's never once publicly announced the responsibilities of students and parents in education, only schools. While I don't see the need to attack Spellings every time she utters a word, as the EdWonks do, they do have a point.
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell agrees with the ruling but also says that California should provide enough money to ensure all its students are educated in a way that meets the standards. He's the SPI, of course he wants more money for schools. 91% of students across the state passed the test, though, including students from those so-called lousy schools. I'm not convinced money is the problem in this case.
There are some fantastic quotes from the Chronicle article, though, and I'll just list them here with minimal commentary because they're so good, they speak for themselves.
Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman accurately diagnosed the problem of unequal access to education but wrongly prescribed the remedy of equal access to diplomas, the appeals court said.
"A high school diploma is not an education, any more than a birth certificate is a baby,'' Ruvolo said.
"Mandating that these students receive diplomas, rather than additional remediation, works a cruel irony by depriving plaintiffs of the very education to which they have a fundamental constitutional right,'' Ruvolo said.
There used to be a similar statement at the front of Cliff's Notes, saying to use them as a supplement to the book instead of a replacement, for just this reason.
Last fall, the Legislature pumped $20 million into schools whose students had the highest failure rates, an amount the court said was inadequate to address the problem statewide.OK, let's put on my math teacher hat. $20,000,000 and 40,000 students, that comes out to $500 per student. And since that money went to schools with the highest rates, it obviously didn't get to each of those 40,000 students. What, exactly, would be "adequate"? $500/student seems like a lot of extra tutoring to me.
So that's where we stand with California's exit exam. Stay tuned.