Last week, an Alameda superior court judge, ruling that the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) was unconstitutional, granted a preliminary injunction suspending it as a graduation requirement for the class of 2006.
Judge Robert Freedman also denied a request by the state to stay the decision pending an appeal. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said the state would appeal the decision.
Freedman said he was persuaded that the test discriminates against poor students and those who are learning English.
“There is evidence in the record that shows that students in economically challenged communities have not had an equal opportunity to learn the materials tested on the exam,” wrote Freedman in his decision.
The judge also rejected the state's request that the decision should only apply to the plaintiffs in the case. Freedman determined that all seniors throughout the state who have met all of the graduation requirements except for passing the test were to be included in the ruling.
This was the first year that passing the CAHSEE, comprised of an English section and a math section, was required in order to earn a high school diploma.
Passing CAHSEE was originally scheduled to be a requirement for the class of 2004 but was pushed back to 2006 after a similar legal injunction.
In a press release issued after the ruling last Friday, O'Connell said, “I'm greatly disappointed in today's court decision to halt the California High School Exit Exam as a graduation requirement for the class of 2006. This is not only a great disappointment to me, it is a setback for students and hard-fought school accountability in the state of California.”
O'Connell also noted in the press release, “We do no favors to students who have not mastered basic skills by handing them a diploma. I look forward to appealing this case so at the end of the legal day, the exit exam will stand as an important measure of accountability in California schools.”
San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Herbert Fischer also issued a press release last Friday expressing his displeasure with the ruling.
“I believe the exit exam as a requirement for graduation remains a worthy goal. Independent studies on the exam have shown it to be successful in aligning curriculum and instructional standards, and motivating high school students to focus on improving student achievement,” said Fisher.
He also noted, “The exam is a valid assurance that our high school graduates are duly prepared with the core educational skills necessary to be successful in the 21st century economy.”
The ruling will affect approximately 47,000 students statewide, about 11 percent of the class of 2006, who have not passed either one or both sections of the test.
CAHSEE tests students on their knowledge of eighth to tenth grade level concepts in English and math.
Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District (YCJUSD) Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Lucia Hudec said the district would comply with the decision but noted the district has taken a proactive approach to helping students pass the test.
According to Hudec, of the 655 seniors in the class of 2006, 617 have passed the English section of the test and 600 have passed the math section.
This means that 38 students, or 5.8 percent, have not passed the English section and 55 students, or 8.4 percent have not passed the math section.
However, Hudec was quick to point out that these numbers did not include the results from when the test was administered in March.
Hudec noted that YCJUSD has taken a proactive approach to helping students pass the test and that those who took the test in March were the beneficiaries of “intensive supplemental CAHSEE instruction” provided by the district.
Hudec said because of this additional test preparation, she expected the district's CAHSEE pass rate to rise when the results were available.
Earlier this year, the YCJUSD Board of Education ruled that students who met all of the graduation requirements except for passing the CAHSEE would be issued a certificate of completion instead of a diploma and would be allowed to participate in all senior activities including the commencement ceremony.