Saturday, February 18, 2006

High School Exit Examinations: The Public's Perspective

I caught these letters to the editor in today's San Francisco Chronicle. I think they're indicative of how much of the public feels about the "must pass" California High School Exit Examination, (CAHSEE) which is being implemented this year:
Scrap the exit exam, fail the students

Editor -- It was in The Chronicle that we were informed that the exit exam is geared to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade levels in math, and ninth- and 10th-grade levels in English.

With such low standards, does anyone really think they are helping those students that cannot read at a 10th-grade level, or do calculations at an 8th-grade level? Where, other than low-paying jobs such as flipping burgers or stacking T-shirts, do they think these students will get employment?

A diploma means nothing if there are no standards attached to it. In order to protect the value of the state's high-school diplomas, Californians would be wise to stick to some quantifiable and measurable standards.

The exit exam is not even close to the best mechanism to make sure we are not failing our children, but it is a start.

Encinitas (San Diego County)

Editor -- How many real-world jobs require the ability to answer multiple-choice questions? What percentage of real-world jobs require a knowledge of algebra? If I were to design a diabolical plan to ensure an increase in the high-school dropout rate, it would involve creating a useless test and administering it early so that the struggling students might get a discouraging low mark that would motivate them to drop out early.
Let the teachers decide what their particular students need to work on during classes and who deserves to graduate.


Editor -- Debra J. Saunders said it exactly right ("High school, low expectation," Feb. 16). The kids will go through a lot harder things in their lives than the exit exam. Life is a competition, and education only helps you to get through it. Let's not forget education is a privilege. Also let's not forget, due to economic globalization, kids of today will have to compete with workers from all over the world, some of which still understand education is a blessing rather than an annoyance.

Menlo Park
With this year's crop of high school students set to be the first who "must pass" this test in order to collect their diplomas, it will be interesting to see if California's state government stands fast in its commitment to implement the examination in light of a fail rate that may exceed 20%. My guess is that some sort of last minute "arrangement" will be made in order to lower the standards thereby decreasing the number of students failing the test to a more politically acceptable level.
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