High School Exit Exam Ditched in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – California high school seniors have one less hurdle to leap before graduation near future, after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill eliminating the California High School Exit Exam.

Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, and author of Assembly Bill 830, said the exam has caused tens of thousands of students who completed all other requirements for graduation to miss out on receiving diplomas since the exam was implemented in 2004.

The Legislature suspended the exit exam for the 2015-16 school year and beyond after the adoption of Common Core education standards. The exam was not intended to be aligned with Common Core and no longer reflects the educational standards applied in the classroom.

“Since the implementation of the state’s high school exit exam, California has adopted new and rigorous standards, implemented new assessments and applied an improved accountability framework to better prepare students for college and career-readiness in the 21st century,” Kalra said.

The bill stemmed from a recommendation by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, under the belief that California’s new accountability and continuous improvement system made the exit exam obsolete. The exam was used as a measure of school performance and assisted the Department of Education and the Legislature in making resource-allocation decisions.

In 2014, the most recent school year the exam was administered, 97.2 percent of students passed. The exam was written in accordance with an educational curriculum bill package passed in 1999, but was plagued by trouble thereafter. High initial fail rates led officials to suspend the no-pass-no-graduate requirement until 2006.

Critics said the exit exam disadvantaged non-native English speakers, charter school students and disabled students. Only 67 percent of disabled students passed the exam in 2014.

The new standards work retroactively to allow students who previously failed the exam but otherwise satisfied graduation requirements to obtain a high school diploma. Completion of high school has been shown to be a significant factor in a person’s lifetime earning potential.

Another measure awaiting signature, Assembly Bill 1360 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, will work in tandem with AB 830 to ensure similar examination standards for charter schools. Both bills will ensure transparency of disciplinary action and requirements for student enrollment and retention at both charter and public schools.

The measure also outlines reporting requirements for school districts to ensure accurate, up-to-date information about the performance of California’s high schools and eliminates all references to an exit exam as a requirement for graduation.

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