Sanity prevails

California's requirement that students pass a graduation examination to certify minimal command of English and math skills has proven controversial because some students have a difficult time passing it. What to do? Of course, some have suggested scrapping the exam. Including a few influential members of a certain urban school district.

The West Contra Costa School District in the East Bay region of San Francisco encompasses the city of Richmond, California and a few other low income communities with severe social pathologies. It also ioncludes upper income towns like Kensington and El Cerrito, with few such problems. School Board member Dave Brown put forth a resolution to award high school diplomas regardless of exam performance, in violation of state law, and thereby devaluing the diplomas of all who studied and passed the exam.

Fortunately, under threat of a cutoff of state aid, sanity prevailed last night, and the proposal was rejected. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

The West Contra Costa school board rejected a trustee's plan Monday to grant high school diplomas to as many as 500 students who have failed California's mandatory exit exam, calling the proposal reckless and illegal.

Board member Dave Brown's resolution failed on a 4—1 vote.

I am very glad the words chosen were used by the majority. The exam itself is appallingly basic. Those who cannot pass it should never be allowed to claim an educational credential.

Thomas Lifson  4 11 06

Update:

A reader who prefers to remain anonymous writes:

As it happens, many who do pass the exam have miserably poor skills in reading, writing, and understanding English. How do I know? A few years ago I was a paid grader for Educational Testing Service of the written portion of CAHSEE (California High School Exit Examination) given as preparation to students below grade 12 and found a shockingly large proportion of the tests in the range of semi—literate to virtually illiterate.

Nevertheless, the grading procedures and system employed maintained a subtle pressure to "grade high" —— so I must assume that many of even those who passed do not have the skill levels they really should.

California's requirement that students pass a graduation examination to certify minimal command of English and math skills has proven controversial because some students have a difficult time passing it. What to do? Of course, some have suggested scrapping the exam. Including a few influential members of a certain urban school district.

The West Contra Costa School District in the East Bay region of San Francisco encompasses the city of Richmond, California and a few other low income communities with severe social pathologies. It also ioncludes upper income towns like Kensington and El Cerrito, with few such problems. School Board member Dave Brown put forth a resolution to award high school diplomas regardless of exam performance, in violation of state law, and thereby devaluing the diplomas of all who studied and passed the exam.

Fortunately, under threat of a cutoff of state aid, sanity prevailed last night, and the proposal was rejected. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

The West Contra Costa school board rejected a trustee's plan Monday to grant high school diplomas to as many as 500 students who have failed California's mandatory exit exam, calling the proposal reckless and illegal.

Board member Dave Brown's resolution failed on a 4—1 vote.

I am very glad the words chosen were used by the majority. The exam itself is appallingly basic. Those who cannot pass it should never be allowed to claim an educational credential.

Thomas Lifson  4 11 06

Update:

A reader who prefers to remain anonymous writes:

As it happens, many who do pass the exam have miserably poor skills in reading, writing, and understanding English. How do I know? A few years ago I was a paid grader for Educational Testing Service of the written portion of CAHSEE (California High School Exit Examination) given as preparation to students below grade 12 and found a shockingly large proportion of the tests in the range of semi—literate to virtually illiterate.

Nevertheless, the grading procedures and system employed maintained a subtle pressure to "grade high" —— so I must assume that many of even those who passed do not have the skill levels they really should.