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CA lawmakers retooling bill to help CAHSEE-less students graduate

Elizabeth Weise | August 19, 2015



GRADUATION CAHSEEState politicians and educators are scrambling to cope with the fallout after the abrupt cancelation of an exam by the California Department of Education left over 5,000 high school students across the state — 492 of them in LA Unified –unable to graduate, despite having completed all other necessary course work.

The California High School Exit Exam, known as the CAHSEE, was required for students graduating in 2015 and before. It was meant to test students’ mastery of English and mathematics.

With the introduction of the new Common Core curriculum, the exam no longer tested what students were to have learned, so “the $11 million-a-year contract to administer the test was not renewed, and therefore the July exam was not offered as in past years,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a statement.

Unfortunately for those students across California who had counted on taking the July test to graduate, they were left with no possibility of completing their high school graduation requirements. Many had been accepted into colleges but would have been unable to attend because they hadn’t taken the final test.

Politicians piled on to condemn the decision. State Attorney General Kamala Harris was especially harsh.

“As the result of a thoughtless bureaucratic blunder, thousands of high school graduates face the prospect of not being able to enroll in college, serve their country through the military, or pursue other professional goals,” she said in a statement.

Governor Jerry Brown and the president of the state Board of Education, Mike Kirst, issued a joint statement: “Students who have been accepted into college should not be prevented from starting class this fall because of a test cancellation they could not control.”

To fix the problem, state legislators on Monday set to work gutting Senate Bill 725, which originally dealt with visual and performing arts education, and replacing it with language that would exempt the class of 2015 from the requirement to pass the exam.

The bill is expected to be earmarked today and go before the full Assembly for a vote tomorrow, according to the office of Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, Democrat from San Diego.

Some school districts aren’t waiting for the legislature. In an emergency meeting on Friday, San Francisco’s School Board voted to amend its graduation requirements and grant diplomas to 107 San Francisco high school seniors who hadn’t been able to take the exam.

“This is a decision that’s right for students,” said Superintendent Richard Carranza.

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