Saturday, August 12, 2006

State Appeals Court: No Diploma After Failing the Exit Exam

Originally I thought we got a two-fer here. The state appeals court ruled not only that failing the exit exam is enough not to receive a diploma, but also that stated that it acknowledges that many of those students went to schools that were underfunded or which failed to educate them--and that a suit alleging that might prove it.

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.


Anonymous said...

I have read what you have to say, but I am not sure what you ultimately believe.

Do you feel that an education is a right or a privilege?

And when I say this, I define a right as something that every citizen is entitled to and cannot be deprived without due process of law versus a privilege, an offering of society given at taxpayer’s expense that can be revoked administratively. For example, military service is a privilege which can be revoked through administrative procedures without due process of law. Life, liberty, and property, on the other hand, our rights, and cannot be infringed without due process of law.

I think that this is an important distinction to make, and does tie into answering the fundamental question in this matter, “What is the proper role of government?”

I ask that question every time a contentious issue of public life arises, yet I never seem to get a satisfactory answer. One would think that defining the scope of government involvement would be central before even contemplating other decisions, but alas, it remains unresolved most of the time.

In this case, the appellate court have made their stance clear, education is a right but a diploma is a privilege. That being said, I think the ultimate solution might be to provide students who cannot pass an exit exam with a certificate of attendance/completion. I would hope this would allow potential employers to distinguish those who did not get a high school diploma though failure to meet standards as opposed to those who willfully dropped out of school or where expelled.

“$500/student seems like a lot of extra tutoring to me.”

Not really. My spouse worked for nearly a decade at a major private learning center in her hometown. That amount of money can help a student prepare for an exam, but it really doesn’t go very far, I’m afraid.

With NCLB, a key source of revenue for the private tutoring industry, the government gets invoiced regardless of performance or attendance. To put it plain English, the learning centers will bill the government even if they don’t help the student at all or if the student is a no show.

The idea of holding publicly funded schools accountable for poor performance should apply to private tutoring companies that receive NCLB dollars, but it does not.

Darren said...

Under California law, an education at public expense is a right. A diploma, however, is not, and the appellate court made the correct decision.

I'm ok with certificates of completion as well. But honestly, has anyone, ever, been asked to show a diploma before being hired?

Anonymous said...

Ok Darren, I give. You want to broadly apply Civil Rights statues and involve the federal government every time people of different races kill each other? Fine. I’m all about big government. :0)

The reason why our country has these laws in the first place was to allow the federal government jurisdiction when local government was not taking proper action in cases of crime against minorities, especially in the deep south.

I don’t like Civil Rights Statues either, but if local government had done its job all along, there would be no Civil Rights laws in America.

Darren said...

I'm not following you, Bob. What do Civil Rights laws have to do with the exit exam?

And if you meant to post this on the next post, which is about minorities killing minorities, again I ask: what do Civil Rights laws have to do with this? I was just pointing out that people besides whites could be racist, since I heard in my credentialing courses that only whites could be racist.

In either case, you're really stretching it.

Anonymous said...

"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."

Uh-huh. Every year we pour more money into education, and with worse results.

Money does not translate into education.

Anonymous said...

“what do Civil Rights laws have to do with this? I was just pointing out that people besides whites could be racist, since I heard in my credentialing courses that only whites could be racist.”

What type of credentialing course is that? I thought you were a math teacher. Interesting.

If you look at the situation from the other side of the coin and apply the principle of charitable interpretation, why would someone say that only whites can be racist?

I think that allegations of racism are used by minority groups to expand the scope of conflict, increase public awareness, and demand a higher level of government involvement, due to a variety of reasons, most important of which is a lack of trust in local law enforcement. Civil Rights statues have everything to do with this, since they obligate the federal government to act.

I think the Afro-American and Latino communities understand intuitively that if these laws were applied broadly in all conceivably instances, it would create chaos, negating the desired effect. This puts them in an awkward situation, forcing them to state that only whites can be racist. I don’t think that very many people actually believe that literally, but it is a contradictory statement used because although the statues are color blind, society is not.

So, I believe, rightly or wrongly, that some people say that “only whites can be racist” not on principle, but to avoid negative consequences. Also, you must consider that minorities have a radically different definition of racism than your own.

We live in a very complicated world. Life is full of contradictions. Some contractions we can accept, others we cannot.

Anonymous said...

Unlike Lillian, I don't teach in an area where there are many illegals, but I do teach where there are a lot of African Americans and have found that education is not valued by many. What is valued? What they see on MTV--gangstas, rappers, emphasis on "bling" and other status symbols, treating women as sex objects and women buying into that as well. Those students who do try to stay the course do not fit in and are "Uncle Toms" or "White Wanna-be's". Until this turns itself around-and I don't see that happening any time soon-the African American population is going to find itself widening the gap between itself and other nationalities. A high rate of teen pregnancy and incarceration rate of young black males is what's in store. And, as usual, this will be blamed on racism (improper schooling, bad cops out racial profiling, etc.). Bill Cosby, one of the most successful African Americans alive today, tries to speak a very powerful message to other African Americans about personal responsibility and stepping up, but has often been met with hostility by African Americans who feel he is a sell out. Too bad, because what he has to say should be listened to by all Americans.