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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

California High School Exit Exam

In the past two days, I have been taking the California Exit Exam. On Tuesday, all sophomores (and the juniors and seniors who have not yet passed) took the English portion of the test. It was very, very easy. Most of it was reading a passage and answering questions on it, such as whether the passage is a biography, persuasive essay, or fiction. Earlier today, I took the math portion, which was also very easy. It dealt with fractions, percentages, exponents, and line graphs. Both of these tests were set up so that we took the test in the morning, then had our regular clases afterward.

However, I was wondering how anyone could possibly not pass it and why anyone would be against an exit exam. So I found this opinion article in The Mercury News. The article gives us this student's situation:

Liliana is a senior. She is an English learner. She has a 3.84 GPA and has made the honor roll every year. She passed the math portion of the exit exam on her first try, but she has not been able to pass the English part. Although she has made great strides in her language skills, she will not be given a high school diploma when her class graduates in June. Will California benefit from denying her a diploma, even though she ranks 12th in her class of 413 students?
Now, when I read this, I wonder what in the world the school is teaching (or even if this scenario is factual!). How could it even be possible that someone could be ranked 12th out of their whole class, but not know the difference, in English, between a fictional story and a persuasive essay? Also, how did Liliana fail all 7 opportunities given ? How did Liliana not improve with the "six months of instruction in reading, writing and comprehension in English during the first 24 months of enrollment in the California school system" that she must have completed? The real question here is not whether she will be denied a diploma, but how she managed to have passing grades in the first place.

The article goes on, saying,
"many of the students who are failing the test are being taught by teachers who are not certified to teach the subjects on the exit exam."
Firstly, I have been taught in the past by non-certified teachers. In actuality, the ones that I had are better than other certified teachers, in my opinion. Secondly, this test is so simple that a cashier at Walmart could probably help you.

What many people don't seem to understand is that these tests do actually help students. Simply passing students along is not a help at all. It will cause us to have students who are surprised that they are unprepared for the real world. However, the exit exam identifies those who are ready, and those who are not, as early as their sophomore year. This means that instead of finding out on their first day of work, students have two more years, and seven more tries to get up to par. Thus, if they are not willing to work for their diploma, these students shouldn't get one.

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