Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Exit Exam Update

Apparently, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell (a Democrat, I might add) was serious about appealing that idiot superior court judge's ruling invalidating the use of the high school exit exam.

School administrators across the region are planning graduation ceremonies with Plans A and B as they await word from the California Supreme Court on whether the high school exit exam will be reinstated as a graduation requirement this year...

The state appealed the case to the California Supreme Court on Friday, asking the high court to reinstate the test as a graduation requirement...

It remains uncertain whether the state Supreme Court will rule on the case at all because it has not gone through a court of appeal. But the court requested additional briefs from lawyers for the state and from the law firm that sued over the exit exam.

That's a sign that a decision is imminent, said the court's spokeswoman, Lynn Holton.

"This is definitely on a fast track," she said.

So, what's the problem?

Still, some students who fail the test could end up graduating before a ruling comes down -- leaving open the possibility that the rules change by the time another school holds its graduation, and those students would have to have passed the test to earn a diploma.

And wouldn't that be a sticky wicket?

Here are a couple of plans that school districts have for how to deal with students who haven't passed the exit exam, even if its implementation is upheld:

The San Juan Unified, Grant Joint Union High and Galt Joint Union High school districts were already planning to allow all students who had completed their coursework to participate in graduation, even if they'd failed the exit exam.

Those districts are now prepared to give students a diploma if the court ruling stays as is, or a certificate of completion if the ruling changes.

I've worked in two of those three districts. And incidentally, I'm ok with the "certificate of completion" compromise.


Ellen K said...

Texas has required exit level testing as well. The testing for graduation begins in the spring of junior year and there are other chances to pass the test senior year for students that don't pass it the first time around. So for the average garden variety student, there's not really all that much of a problem. Where it becomes sticky is with ESL kids, who may test out very high in some classes, but struggle in English, yet are still expected to pass the TAKS writing and language arts class. The other issue is that since "someone" decided too many SPED kids were being given locally created tests and the goal was to "make" all of them achieve exit levels, the jury's still out on whether this is going to further penalize kids that already have learning issues. I know my own dyslexic kiddo passed, even got commended in history/social studies, but the writing was passed by the slimmest of margins. In reality, it probably is a fair assessment of abilities leading to college level work, but on the other hand, should we be virtually kicking out kids that only want to graduate from high school and move on with their lives? Not everyone is headed for college. In fact, not everyone SHOULD be headed for college. I think we need some sort of tracking that helps kids with vocational skills. It's great to say we are helping kids get to college, but we also need to serve those that need a job in June right after school gets out. I don't think holding their diplomas serves much purpose other than to rub their noses in failure.

Darren said...

It's important to remember the standards for passing this particular exit exam:

60% in the Language Arts section, which covers *at most* 10th grade standards.

55% in the math section, which covers *at most* 8th grade algebra.

What does a 13-years-of-school diploma mean if a student can't meet the standards listed above?

Ellen K said...

True, there needs to be some accountability. But then again, I think the case could be made that we should adopt an educational system that tracks kids starting around age 13 into the programs they need. Should a kid from a poor neighborhood, with a pregnant girlfriend be allowed into a college-bound program? Sure, but then again, should a kid who has no intention of ever taking anymore classes be expected to take some of the more esoteric offerings? Wouldn't it be a more productive and cost-effective use of time to get these kids into vocational programs that will give them working skills so that they are employable the minute they get out of high school? I teach in a pretty wealthy and high achieving school where pretty much 90% of the students are expected to go to college. We have many kids who graduate early because they HATE school. Keeping them there longer is a waste of their time and our money. I would also go even further to say that of the 90% that go to college, nearly 30% of them have no business in a college classroom and would be much happier and more productive in a decent vocational program. Instead because their parents can afford it and they don't need scholarships and they haven't a clue what else to do, these kids spend time and their parents' money partying, missing class and generally taking up space that the more diligent and deserving students could have. I've seen it as a high school teacher, my daughter has seen it from the other end as a resident assistant. There are just some kids that need a system beyond shipping them up to Lubbock and praying they learn something. While this gets away from the issue of testing a bit, I think that many politicians assume that if the test scores are "okay" that the kids are learning. From what I have seen many of the kids are regurgitating what they learn in class and seem to have problems with writing, synthesis of ideas and creative applications of what they have learned. And that is the downside of the whole testing debate.