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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

California Exit Exam Ruled Unfair

I'm a liberal. Really really left wing. You may have noticed this reading my blog for a while. I know it ties my grandparents, my mom, and my dad in knots. There's a great deal that we disagree on politically. Sometimes they wonder what planet I'm from or if Berkeley did this "to me" (which for the record, heck no, I was like this well before Berkeley). Well guess what - I'm about to agree with them on something.

Now, I can't say that I have the world's most informed picture of the test. I'd really like to see the test, the test questions, see what is being asked and how it's being asked. But for god's sake, there has to be SOME standard. Well, apparently not. 10% of kids are failing it. Knowing the bottom 10% of students, that's probably a very good/appropriate thing. To squeak through high school on Cs and Ds that were gifts from your teachers and get a diploma is not acceptable. Yes, this is disproportionately affecting the poor. Very often the poor come from families that don't value education and/or don't know how to help their kids in school, primarily because the parents are poorly educated. And yes, it affects English language learners disproportionately. But in California high schools, students are required to complete three years of English. It's really part of the deal. To get a diploma, you have to have basic competence in English. So I have some sympathy that those folks have more to learn and frequently don't have the means to go the extra mile, but really, what does a diploma imply? Shouldn't it mean something other than "I survived four years of compulsory education/detention." Why is that so wrong?

So this comes back to a basic problem I have with compulsory education. If it's forced on you, then you don't want it. This is true of most things. School is hardly an exception. If a kid doesn't want to be there, and their parents agree, then bloody well let them go. Let them come back when they're ready (whether that's a year or 15 years later). But forcing someone to sit in a desk is not the same as forcing them to think or learn. It doesn't work. And our one size fits all, point everyone at college with no vocational training option system is just failing so many kids who have no interest in that path.

Oh well. At least the threat of a required test kept a bunch of kids in line and on track for a few years. This is still going to be an interesting battle to follow for a few more years. Perhaps there will be a two-tiered diploma system, one with a seal for passage of the test, and a lower level diploma for no pass. We shall see.


  • Hmm,

    I agree there must be a standard that students must learn before graduating High School. However, it seems the firm that brought the suit was saying that testing kids on what they hadn't learned was putting the cart before the horse.
    It's tough to know without seeing the actual situation, whether it's the school, the test or the students that are the problem.

    By Blogger Chris S, at 11:42 PM  

  • While I haven't had a look at the exam I have seen data, collected by my boss as part of his dissertation, directly related to the math and english sections of it. Based on the California curriculum there is nothing past the 8th grade level in either of those sections. The burden that "No Child Left Behing" is going to place on schools is to provide the students likely to fail with additional resources. This may include a classroom aide, additional tutoring, etc. - ultimately whatever the student needs in order to pass the exit exam. I may not agree with NCLB in whole, but parts of it are pretty. Excusing people likely to fail the exam from taking it removes the burden from the education system and, of issue to me and the company I work for, puts us back in a situation where special education will be very, very easy to work around (i.e. we don't have to teach them because they don't have to take the exit exam - which NCLB identifies as the purpose of education).

    By Blogger Unknown, at 5:35 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Natalie, at 11:32 AM  

  • "I felt strongly that the state should not deprive a student of a diploma unless the state can say that every student has been fairly and properly prepared for that test," according to the MoFo partner SFGate interviewed.

    Leaving aside the obvious fallacy of Gonzalez' actual words, I don't agree that a student shouldn't be "deprived" of a diploma if he hasn't been fairly and properly prepared for the exit exam. What difference does it make whether the students have been taught the material? The question is whether they know it, and I don't see why the court should care how they know it. The relevant inquiry here seems to me to be not whether we have provided "equal protection" to our public school students (protection?), but how we want our diplomas to be credentialed.

    By Blogger Natalie, at 11:33 AM  

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