A new California bill, SB 172, passed by the state Senate on June 1st, is currently being reviewed by the state Assembly and is awaiting a vote. The new bill would to allow students to graduate high school without having to take the required California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE). The exit exam would be suspended for three years starting in the 2016-17 school year, then a reevaluation would take place based on an advisory panel conducted by the State's Superintendent of Public Instruction. The panel would would decide whether to eliminate or replace the exit exam with another exam or with alternative requirements. The California School Boards Association and the California Teachers Association are in full support of SB 172.
Since CAHSEE was first taken by the class of 2006, California high schoolers were given eight chances beginning their sophomore year to pass the exam. CAHSEE tests basic proficiency is math and English, and as the CA Department of Education reports, 95% of students pass the exam each year. This however, leaves thousands of students without the chance of ever earning their high school diploma, even if they pass all other graduation requirements.
Students in Limbo
This year's high school seniors remain in limbo, not knowing whether or not the exit exam will remain a graduation requirement. While undergoing review, the state's contract with exam providers, Educational Testing Service, expired in May. In the meantime, around 5,000 seniors waiting to take the test again this month will not have the chance to take the exam again and instead must wait for the vote. Once approved by the Assembly, the bill will then move to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown and await to be signed to law. Officials are hoping that an addendum can be added to the bill so that this year's seniors can receive their diplomas. Other than keeping fingers crossed for a swift vote, officials do not have an answer for students caught up in this transitory period.
Proponents of the bill argue that the exit exam has unnecessarily tripped up thousands of students from graduating due to its dated California State Standards, which are no longer taught in schools. Some officials have even taken the stance that exit exams aren't necessary and that teaching Common Core curriculum is enough to prepare students for graduation. Although opponents also agree that CAHSEE is dated, they say getting rid of an exit exam without first having a replacement nullifies the state's continued push on implementing more rigorous Common Core standards. Either way, both sides of the aisle agree that CAHSEE needs to be updated, and it's up for the Assembly to determine whether the bill should move forward or if an alternative solution should be mandated immediately.
A Potential Solution
With the future uncertain for California's students, the state now as a unique opportunity to test alternative methods for measuring competency, while it seeks a replacement for the dated testing. If both sides agree that the state exit exam is indeed inadequate, than perhaps it's time for schools to start measuring competency in other ways in order to better prepare students for the workforce, for postsecondary education, and for their careers.