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Archive for the ‘Exams’ Category

While I’m not a fan of our Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, I don’t really blame him for taking drastic measures in order to fix the city’s failure that is the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), despite the fact that his plan is based on New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s flawed school takeover. At least Villaraigosa is trying to do something.

If one needs proof that LA public schools, and California education standards in general, require some major rehabilitation tactics, then one only needs look at student failure rate on the California State Exit Exam (CASEE.)

42,000 students failed the standardized test. Even the few students who had enough initiative to repeatedly take the test still could not pass either the math portion, or the English portion, or both.

Is the CASEE too difficult? Certainly not. You know why? Because it tests at an 8th grade level. I don’t want to get into the politics of the exam here, especially considering I already tread this ground back when the exit exam had been foolishly deemed unconstitutional by a moron of a judge (thankfully, that decision was then overturned and graduating seniors in California were required to pass the CASEE in order to receive a diploma.) But there’s something absolutely rotten with California schools if a student can make it through all four years of high school, maintain an A- grade average, and still fail the exit exam to the point of not graduating.

Morgan Saunders, 18, who maintained an A-minus average during her four years at Oakland’s Dewey High School… finished high school without a diploma. She passed the English section of the exit exam on her first try but failed the math portion four times, stumped by the geometry.

Awww… but she had an A- average. She’s obviously a good student, right? I say, no. Is it her fault? Probably not. Whose fault is it? I’m going to step out on a limb here [sarcasm] and say the reason Morgan couldn’t pass the CASEE, and ultimately couldn’t graduate, is because the California school system sucks so fucking hard. Her teachers let her coast through high school believing she was an exceptional student. When it came time to truly test that assessment Morgan was tossed to the wolves, confused and abandoned by those who were taxed with her success.

Now The Los Angeles Community College District and other community colleges around the state are opening their arms, ready to embrace to the failures of the California public school system. Failed the CASEE? Didn’t graduate? Who cares. Just hand over enough money and you too can get a first class… er, 2nd class… um… 3rd rate. Hmmm…. anyway… You too can get edumacated at any of a multitude of California community colleges.

Gee. That sounds like a swell idea–offering an education to those who couldn’t pass the state exit exam. But wouldn’t those students who just proved to the California public school system they couldn’t compete at an 8th grade level, simply be doing the same thing in a community college?

“Hrumph! Of course not! Our instructors are of a higher caliber at Shittown Community College. Those students who failed the CASEE will receive at least a 3rd rate education.”

But wouldn’t those teachers still have to lower their education tactics and standards in order to instruct students who can’t pass 8th grade level math and English? In essence, they would have to dumb down the course work in order to raise students to a level of minimum acceptability for college-level studies, cramming four years of high school into two years of community college, while still maintaining an obligation to guide those students towards a path that will lead to a four-year college, or god-forbid, an honest-to-god university.

Sounds like a daunting task, especially when there are students like this…

Idalia Albarran, an 18-year-old from Santa Ana, also is looking to her local community college for help.

Albarran, who immigrated to Orange County from the Mexican state of Guerrero in 2002, passed all of her courses over the last four years at Century High School and maintained a B average.

But when her school held its commencement this month, she received a certificate of completion but no diploma because she failed the English portion of the exit exam five times.

Albarran, who relies mainly on Spanish in conversation, said in Spanish that she was “really sad” about falling short on the exam. “I had done so much work and it didn’t pay off,” she said.

Yet Albarran, who hopes one day to become a dentist, said she was thrilled to learn that she could enter a program at Santa Ana College tailored to students who failed the exit exam.

Hmmm. She wants to be a dentist but she can’t pass an 8th grade English test. Riiiiight. Of course, this brings up another issue–becoming an American citizen is many parts assimilation. If you can’t take the time to learn the language, how can you hope to pass an exam designed test that fundamental concept? Simply, you can’t.

Exit Exam Not the End for High School Seniors

By Stuart Silverstein and Seema Mehta, Times Staff Writers
June 25, 2006

High school seniors who failed California’s new exit exam are being welcomed into two-year colleges for another shot at a diploma.
Community colleges have long offered a second chance to students with lofty ambitions but lousy high school grades. Now many two-year colleges are trying to attract a new group seeking a fresh start: seniors leaving high school this month without diplomas because they couldn’t pass California’s new exit exam.

The Los Angeles Community College District, the state’s largest, and others around California are welcoming many of the nearly 42,000 high school seniors tripped up by the exit exam.
By one estimate, 15,000 to 20,000 of those students will enroll in basic skills courses or other classes at the colleges.

Some state officials and education analysts question whether those efforts eventually could divert resources from other needed programs at two-year colleges and become a permanent crutch for failing high schools.

Concerns also have been raised that, in a few cases, community colleges are providing students a loophole letting them earn high school diplomas without passing the California High School Exit Examination. (Among educators, it’s known as the CAHSEE, pronounced “KAY-see.”)

For the most part, however, educators along with many students and their parents are embracing the initiatives aimed at the 9.6% of this past year’s high school seniors who have fallen short on the exit exam.

The supporters point out that one of the longtime missions for the colleges has been to serve students lacking high school diplomas and needing basic skills instruction.

“These students have always been coming to us,” said Marshall “Mark” Drummond, the state community colleges chancellor, noting that admitting students without high school diplomas is nothing new for California’s community colleges.

“We have to be sure that kids know that failing the CAHSEE is not the end of their future,” he said.

Students such as Morgan Saunders, 18, who maintained an A-minus average during her four years at Oakland’s Dewey High School, are taking that message to heart. She hopes to earn a university degree and launch a web design business.

But Saunders finished high school without a diploma. She passed the English section of the exit exam on her first try but failed the math portion four times, stumped by the geometry.

“I was very angry,” she said. Noting her high GPA, Saunders said, “For a test to say I didn’t make it, that’s wrong.”

Still, she said she was relieved to find out that she could enroll at Laney College, a two-year school in Oakland.

Saunders will participate in a partnership between Oakland public schools and community colleges. Students who enroll in an afternoon exit exam prep class can also take a morning course for college credit, free of charge. The students can continue in community college even if they don’t pass their next exit exam.

“We thought it might be practically and psychologically a really good way to help motivate kids who might be feeling kind of depressed or frustrated because they hadn’t graduated, and might just be inclined to drop out or hang their heads,” said Brian McKibben, an Oakland school district administrator.

Idalia Albarran, an 18-year-old from Santa Ana, also is looking to her local community college for help.

Albarran, who immigrated to Orange County from the Mexican state of Guerrero in 2002, passed all of her courses over the last four years at Century High School and maintained a B average.

But when her school held its commencement this month, she received a certificate of completion but no diploma because she failed the English portion of the exit exam five times.

Albarran, who relies mainly on Spanish in conversation, said in Spanish that she was “really sad” about falling short on the exam. “I had done so much work and it didn’t pay off,” she said.

Yet Albarran, who hopes one day to become a dentist, said she was thrilled to learn that she could enter a program at Santa Ana College tailored to students who failed the exit exam.

Without a second chance, she said, “I would have to work and I wouldn’t have a career.”

The Schwarzenegger administration has proposed, and legislators have supported, including $10 million in the new state budget for community college programs that serve students who fail the exit exam.

Separately, state Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) has introduced legislation that would permit students who have not passed the exit exam to receive Cal Grant funds for college-related expenses.

Among the beneficiaries of the proposed spending would be students in Los Angeles’ community college district.

All nine of the system’s campuses will offer “Bridge to College,” a new summer program beginning in July, for an estimated 1,200 students overall, including an estimated 150 to 250 who failed the exit exam. (A flier for the program declares, “No CAHSEE? No Problem!” )

In addition, three of the district’s schools the City College, Trade Tech and Southwest campuses will have a related “Learn and Earn” program providing part-time campus jobs for students who failed the exam and want to continue their studies.

The Schwarzenegger administration, though generally supporting community colleges’ efforts for students who failed the exit exam, objects to one practice.

A few community colleges around the state have already offered adult high school programs and awarded diplomas to students who complete them. The Schwarzenegger administration is now pushing, so far unsuccessfully, to prevent those colleges from awarding diplomas to students who failed the exit exam.

H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Schwarzenegger administration, called that practice “a loophole that lets you get past or get through the requirements that the majority of other high school students in California have to meet.” The standards enforced by the exit exam, he said, are intended to help students and “prepare them for their next step in life.”

Yet officials at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, one of the two-year schools offering high school diplomas without requiring the exit exam, reject the loophole characterization.

Madelyn Arballo, the school’s director of basic skills, said its high school program imposes reading, writing and math requirements that match or exceed the exit exam standards. “We know that it’s just as rigorous and just as tough as getting a diploma” at a regular high school, she said.

Currently listening:
Jou Hou
By Discordance Axis
Release date: By 27 January, 2004
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