Governor Jerry Brown's Oct. 7 signing of a bill to grant diplomas to students who failed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) and waive the CAHSEE graduation requirement for the next three years is drawing mixed reactions. Some praise the measure for relieving students of a standardized test which had not been integrated into their educational preparation, while critics feel that students who cannot pass the test's minimal requirements are not ready to graduate. It is now up to high school educators, administrators and counselors to educate students about the implications of the new bill and ensure that high educational expectations are upheld in the classroom.
Follow up With Former Students
The passage of the bill gives former students who failed the CAHSEE at any point after the 2003-2004 school year a chance to get a diploma if they passed their classes and met all other graduation requirements. Students must petition their school district, county office of education program or charter school to receive their diploma.
Whether school districts are legally obligated to contact former students is still being clarified, but some districts such as the Los Angeles Unified School District are already taking steps to identify and notify eligible students. State officials are also setting up a website to make it easier for students to apply for their diplomas. Educators, administrators and counselors should visit the California Department of Education's FAQ page about the suspension of the CAHSEE regularly to stay updated on these developments.
Prepare Current Students
With the CAHSEE requirement suspended, graduation requirements for current students revert to the district-level requirements that were in effect before the CAHSEE was instated. Educators should check with their individual districts on the current requirements and gear their student curriculum accordingly. Make students aware that the removal of the CAHSEE requirement does not imply an automatic diploma — they must still work hard on their regular coursework and test preparation if they expect to graduate.
Students can also still opt to take the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE), which enables students to exit high school early and become eligible to apply for community college. Students who are in at least their second sophomore semester or who are 16 to 18 years old should be informed about the CHSPE opportunity. The CHSPE is offered every six months for a fee. For more information, teachers, administrators, and counselors should consult the CHSPE's website.
Prepare for Future Exam Requirements
The new bill suspends the exam until 2018 and requires the state superintendent to set up an advisory board to decide whether to continue with CAHSEE after that point or find alternate graduation requirements. The panel may consider developing a new test based on other standards, such as the Smarter Balanced assessments, or it may opt to continue with CAHSEE. Passing the panel's recommendation will be up to the state legislature.
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Resources: Photo credit. (1) Law Provides High School Diplomas Regardless of Exit Exam Results (2) What Former, Current High School Students Need to Know About Exit Exam (3) California High School Proficiency Examination