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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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Judge Robert Freedman is an idiot. I know this news is a week old, but this guy just exudes so much stupidity that he could give Bush a run for his money. This man struck down the statewide standardized high school exit exam, further devaluing California school systems and the students who are produced from them.

The exit exam tests graduating seniors for their aptitude of what they have learned during their school careers. It tests at an 8th grade level. Students can take it a multitude of times. Read those last two lines again.

This was the first year the exit exam was actually being put to effect (it had been postponed two years ago to 2006) but because 47,000 students were not going to graduate, Lawyers representing those students sued the state in order to get the exit exam thrown out.

The lawsuit attempted to claim that low income and english learning students were at a disadvantage; they couldn’t attend the fancier schools; they had responsibilities like work; they don’t speak english; they’re poor. Most telling was the fact that the lawyers stated the exit exam was racist, favoring wealthy caucasians, while ignoring latinos and blacks because those minorities are at an economic disadvantage. In essence, the exit exam isn’t fair to latinos and blacks, therefore it is a racist test.

Well, that’s tough. You know what? Life isn’t fair. It’s true. Students who come from a wealthier background do have it generally a little easier in school, while students who come from a poorer background often have to work a little (or a lot) harder in order to maintain good grades, and yes, pass exit exams.

And this is what’s racist–the lawyers who brought this lawsuit and the people who supported it. They’re saying that latinos and blacks are just too stupid to pass this test. Yeah, latinos and black are too damn dumb to pass an 8th grade level test that can be taken over and over and over again until it’s passed. That’s preposterous, and I don’t buy it. They’re the racists.

All this motion by the judge does is devalue California schools. It hurts students who worked hard in school. It means those students who did pass the exit exam are just as good as the ones who didn’t–that you can simply show up to school, and get a diploma.

A diploma is not a right. Though Freedman seems to think so. You don’t deserve it. You have to work to deserve it, and while some students will have to work harder in order to earn that diploma, I would hope they’ll feel a sense of accomplishment for it, and not fall back on racist arguments as to why they feel they should just get one.

And finally, let’s just go ahead and throw out ACTs, SATs, and any other standardized test while we’re at it, because that’s also what this ruling declares. No standardized testing. Hell, no tests period.

Here’s a little clip from an article about this…

Liliana Valenzuela, an 18-year-old senior from Richmond and the lead plaintiff in Valenzuela vs. California, was in an English class at Richmond High on Friday when she got a cell phone call informing her of the judge’s decision. Containing her excitement, she quietly told her teacher, then slipped from class to meet her lawyers.

“I feel very happy,” she said later in Spanish. “Now I’ll be able to have my diploma and fulfill my desire to become a nurse.”

And do you really believe you can be a nurse when you can’t even pass an 8th grade level multiple choice test? Best of luck.

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