Wednesday, April 22, 2009

High School Exit Exam Back In The News

Oh no! There's a systemic problem with the exit exam!

California's high school exit exam is keeping disproportionate numbers of girls and non-whites from graduating, even when they are just as capable as white boys, according to a study released Tuesday. It also found that the exam, which became a graduation requirement in 2007, has "had no positive effect on student achievement."

The study by researchers at Stanford University and UC Davis concluded that girls and non-whites were probably failing the exit exam more often than expected because of what is known as "stereotype threat," a theory in social psychology that holds, essentially, that negative stereotypes can be self-fulfilling. In this case, researcher Sean Reardon said, girls and students of color may be tripped up by the expectation that they cannot do as well as white boys.

Or maybe, just maybe, some "girls and non-whites" aren't as prepared as they should be. That would actually be the simplest explanation, and doesn't require any psychological theories. And I guess it's a good thing Asians expect to do as well as white boys.

Jack O'Connell, idiot extraordinaire, chimes in:

The heart of this report speaks to why I've called out California's racial achievement gap and why I am so committed to implementing the14 recommendations made by my P-16 Council aimed at closing these gaps. The recommendations include the creation of a statewide strand of culturally relevant pedagogy and a culture survey of our students and education staff to discuss and address issues of unconscious racial bias in our schools.

Blame everyone but the students themselves, or the culture from which they come. I'm not really interested in covering that terrain again. Must be part of that unconscious racial bias, or something. I wonder how O'Connell explains that well over half of university students in California are female.

The stupid argument, though, and one that I cannot let pass without comment, is that the test has "had no positive effect on student achievement." Let me be clear: tests aren't supposed to have an effect on student achievement, they're supposed to measure achievement. And people who can't pass that test, no matter what the reason, shouldn't get a diploma. Maybe we could give them a ribbon instead.


Ellen K said...

Remember the colorblind society? The idea that we wouldn't blame or hinder students based on race? So why do we keep indulging what is a very racist and sexist stereotype by expecting less academic achievement from minorities and girls (and without saying especially from minority girls....)than other students. They have many of the same programs, in fact minority students may have access to support that is unheard of in suburban schools. That would make it where these failing students are actually getting more from their schools in terms of contact time, material and additional programs than their more male and less ethnic peers. And if you believe this hype, how do you explain Asians on that paradigm? Liberals are so racist.....

Scott McCall said...

Here in arizona, we have a very similar test. However, the tests are at high school leve, (sophomore and junior equivalent years, not middle school equivalent years) and we have a very high passing rate, including females and non-whites.

so....could it be possible that the CALIFORNIA EDUCATION SYSTEM is failing the students by not providing enough educational opportunities to the schools at which contain a majority of the failing students?

but i agree....don't pass the test, dont get a diploma. that's how it i here in arizona, no exceptions

maxutils said...

First, the CEE doesn't test at high school level, and the pass level is set ridiculously low. The vast majority of students pass easily, usually as sophomores. No amount of racial bias could prevent an even reasonably competent student from passing this exam, even if I believed it existed.

That said, why is the test necessary? Anyone incapable of passing that test should also be incapable of passing the minimum 2 years of sequential mathematics and the 4 years of English required for graduation.

For most students, the test is a joke. The administration requirements make it a scheduling nightmare that has a significant impact on classroom instruction. And, in the end, it tells us nothing that appropriate grading wouldn't have already.