Brown Signs Law to Halt California Exit Exam


A new law signed by California Governor Jerry Brown will suspend for three years the California high school exit exam which has been a requirement for students to graduate.

Theadditional time will be used to give education officials a chance to create a new exam written to align with the Common Core standards, write Melanie Mason and Teresa Watnabe reporting for The Los Angeles Times.

SB 172 by Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge) will also allow about 32,000 students who did not pass the exam dating back to 2004 to receive diplomas if they have completed all other graduation requirements.

This year the exam was cancelled by state education officials, which led to legislators passing emergency legislation that would allow 5,000 students to get their diplomas without the test. The legislation passed on a partisan vote with Republicans objecting.

One student, Telesis Radford, was ecstatic about the decision. She completed her coursework in 2006 at Santa Rosa High. She passed the English portion of the exit exam, but she failed the math section three times, so she did not receive her diploma. Now 27-year-old Radford can enroll in a vocational school and pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.

The Superintendent of the East Side Union High School District in San Jose, Chris Funk, was glad to see the test dropped, since it “never had the coherence we need in a state accountability system.” But Assemblywoman Catherine Baker (R-San Ramon) disagrees.

“Removing the exit exam not only impairs our ability to ensure we have taught our kids, but impairs our ability to hold our education system accountable for that responsibility.There is no reason to go back and rewrite exit-exam history.”

A diploma matters years after completing high school. A diploma is needed to attend a four-year university, receive financial aid, enlist in the military, or join apprenticeship programs.

Of the 2014 class, more than 95% of seniors passed the test. However, in 2013 only one-quarter of seniors passed the math section and one-fifth passed English.

Pass rates are high for sophomores who take the test for the first time. Often they decline those scores, however, hoping for higher grades on their next two test-taking opportunities. The exam tests proficiency in 8th grade math and 10th grade English.

Even though US Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Governor Jerry Brown have spent years of being on the opposite sides of education policy, though Duncan praised Brown this month for his “real vision, real courage” based on his passage of a school funding plan that will be channeling significantly more money to low-income students and English Language Learners.

Brown and Duncan share a desire to improve education for low-income, minority students and to support charter schools and the Common Core State Standards, reports John Fensterwald of EdSource. But when it came to stopping the annual testing required for high school graduation, Duncan threatened to withhold some or all of California’s Title I funding if the state shut down testing. The only issue that saved the state from Duncan’s wrath, writes Fensterwald, was the fact that California is committed to implementing the Common Core.