May 12, 2010
High School Exit Exams
There has been a concern for some time throughout America regarding the quality of our public education. It seems the majority of students are graduating from high school without understanding the basics of the three R’s: reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. Today, the focus of education has moved to measuring what students can do by requiring them to pass a standardized test before they can receive a diploma. As a result, many students are being denied their high school diplomas because they are failing to pass these state mandated exit exams.
In 1999, Gray Davis ran for governor of California on an “educational accountability platform”, and won (caljustice.org). During his first few days in office, then Governor Davis called the Legislature into a special session on school reform and proposed four major pieces of legislation; one was the high school exit exam (caljustice.org). Since the passing of this bill, it has become a heavily debated issue. The law states that every student in California must take and pass the California High School Exit Exam, CAHSEE, to receive a diploma (California Department of Education). The CAHSEE consists of two parts; the first is English-Language Arts, which is at a tenth grade level; and the second part is Mathematics at an Algebra I level (California Department of Education).
In 2001, sixty-four percent of the students in California passed the English-Language Arts portion of the exit exam and only fifty-four percent passed the Mathematics portion (Mindfully.org). Critics of the exit exam would blame this on under-funded schools and inadequate schooling. Ashley Williams of Crenshaw High School stated, “They’re putting us in a position to compete with students who have the resources that we don’t,” she also added that she “has gone weeks without text books in some classes and that at least four of her teachers have only emergency credentials” (Hayasaki, 2003). Another student, Manuel Saravia at Dorsey High School criticized the state for “failing to fix problems at his school such as overcrowding, violence, and under-qualified teachers, which in turn makes it difficult to learn” (Hayasaki, 2003). He also stated, “Our classes are so overcrowded and the toilets are always dirty and broken. Being there doesn’t make me feel like learning, it makes me feel like leaving.” (Hayasaki, 2003). In 2005-2006, California ranked forty-ninth in the nation on the student per teacher ratio; the U.S. average was 15.2 students per teacher, while California averaged 21.0; only two states, Arizona and Utah, had slightly higher averages (Comparing California). Even though California had one of the highest ratios, they were spending below average expenditures on education. Whereas California spent an average of $8, 486 per student; most states with lower ratios were spending an average of $10,000 to $12,000, even as high as $15,508 (Comparing California).With overcrowding and lack of resources, teachers have resorted to mainly teaching students the material required to pass the high school exit exam, taking away time spent on a quality education.
Critics of the exit exam also claim that the test is biased against some minorities and low-income students. Compared to eighty-two percent and seventy-six percent of Whites and Asians, respectively, that passed the English-Language Arts portion of the exam, only fifty percent of Blacks and forty-eight percent of Hispanics passed that portion (CAHSEE). The figures are significantly lower for Mathematics; sixty-four percent of Whites and seventy percent of Asians passed, where as only twenty-four percent of Blacks and twenty-five percent of Hispanics were able to pass. Starting as early as second grade, schools use standardized tests to assign students to different “tracks”. “Tracking is the practice of placing students in different classes based on perceived differences in their...
Cited: 7. Hayasaki, E. “Students on Protest Tour Say High School Exit Test is Unfair”. Los Angeles Times. (2003).
8. Olson, L. “Two New Projects to Examine Quality, Impact of Exit Exams”. January, 2002. Education
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