Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

09 May 2006

High School Exit Exam in California

I heard a lot of news reports about this thing on the way home and I started to think... you know, I have to honestly say I have no sympathy for these students who can't pass the high school exit exam. Evidently, 89% of all California high school students passed the exam and are good to graduate, but there is an 11% minority that didn't actually pass the test and will not be receiving their diplomas in June unless they do. Ten of these students are suing in State court, saying that because education is not equal across the state, a uniform test should not be given across the state.

I asked my mother the high school counselor about it when I went to visit my folks tonight (I was blessed with free food and a free haircut: hooray!) Mom says that CAHSEE (that's what it's called for short) is easy. She says that the public schools offer classes to help specifically with CAHSEE. She says that the students start taking the test when they are sophomores, and that they have numerous chances to take the test in their senior year. And even if they don't pass the test and graduate with their class, they can stay an extra year (or more often a semester... sometimes even just summer school) and pass the test and then graduate.

My thought is this: there is no reason to have a standard if you don't hold everyone to it equally. Plenty of people in all walks of life and in every school in the state passed the exam. Who are these students who didn't pass the exam? They might be lovely people, but they didn't work hard enough to pass the test and that—as they say—is that. Why didn't they pass? Were they ditching class? Were they not doing homework? Because many, many students—an overwhelming majority, in fact—did pass the test.

And I heard that the president of the state teachers' union was out protesting this morning with whomever else was there and I thought "what nonsense!" The teachers' union, as usual, wants no accountability at all. Of course the teachers' union doesn't want anyone evaluating the job they're doing. But a test that says that each student with this specific piece of paper (a high school diploma) has a certain level of knowledge and a certain level of reading comprehension and critical thinking seems to me to be a very good thing.

Mom says that no one has done a study comparing the SAT and CAHSEE, but she ventured to say that a passing grade on CAHSEE was probably somewhat equivalent to a 750 on the SAT.