Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that will allow some students who failed the California High School Exit Exam to receive a high school diploma retroactively.

Senate Bill 172 will require school districts to award diplomas to students who met every other graduation target but failed the exit exam, which became a requirement starting with the class of 2006.

Brown, who signed the bill Wednesday, did not issue a comment.

Sen. Carol Liu, D­-La Cañada Flintridge, who authored the bill, initially introduced the bill because the exit exam is not aligned with new Common Core standards. It was later amended to remove the exit exam as a requirement for graduation for students who still hadn’t passed because they no longer had an opportunity to take the test.

The state is no longer administering the exit exam after its contract with the test’s publisher was set to expire this month. May was the last time the exam was given to students.

The law goes into effect Jan. 1. Students can contact their individual school districts to determine if they qualify.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who sponsored the bill, said in a prepared statement that he applauded the governor for signing it.

“The high school exit exam is outdated and does not reflect California’s new, more rigorous academic standards that emphasize skills needed to succeed in college and careers in the 21st century,” he said. “I look forward to convening a task force of teachers, parents, students, and education leaders to find a more thoughtful approach to high school graduation requirements that better suits California’s modern education system and higher academic standards, and that supports our ongoing statewide efforts to achieve college and career readiness for all students.”

Previously, students in adult education programs were allowed to continue taking the exit exam three times a year, even years after they were supposed to graduate from high school.

About 249,000 students, or 6 percent of test­-takers, could not pass the test before the end of their senior year since it became a graduation requirement for the class of 2006. It’s unclear how many of these students did not receive diplomas only because they failed the test, and how many wouldn’t have graduated anyway because they also lacked enough credits, or did not meet grade requirements.

The new law also calls for the state to suspend the exit exam in the 2015-16, 2016­-17 and 2017­-18 school years and to eliminate it as a graduation requirement during that time. Meanwhile, lawmakers and educators will determine if the state should create a new version of the test that’s aligned with the Common Core State Standards, or eliminate it altogether as a graduation requirement in the future.

Nearly 5 million students have taken the test, aimed at ensuring students graduate from high school with basic skills in math and English. The math portion is based on 6th­- and 7th-­grade math standards, along with some Algebra I questions. The English section is based on 8th-­, 9th-­ and 10th­-grade standards.

Students who failed the exit exam but met all other graduation requirements were often awarded certificates of achievement, which are diploma-like documents. The students were encouraged to enroll in community colleges, which do not require diplomas for admission, or to work toward a GED diploma equivalency certificate.

Still, many were prevented from applying to four­-year colleges, vocational training programs, military service or for jobs that required a high school diploma.

Telesis Radford, who received a certificate of completion from Santa Rosa High after missing the score needed to pass the exit exam by 2 points, squealed with joy when told in a phone interview Wednesday that the governor had signed the bill.

“My reaction is just pure joy and happiness,” she said. “I will be able to take the phlebotomy course that I want to take and get the job I want to get afterward. I’ll be living my dream now.”

Veronica Steele, a 27­-year­-old who received a certificate of completion from Rio Linda High, which is near Sacramento, said she was also excited after learning she will now be able to get her diploma and pursue a career as a veterinary technician. Failing the exam and not graduating, she said, negatively affected her.

“It shot my confidence,” she said. “I lost complete self esteem because of that test and now that I’m going to get my diploma, it feels like a weight’s being lifted off my shoulder.”

Supporters of the exit exam have said it raised the bar for graduation by encouraging students to work harder and pressured schools to increase their efforts to close the achievement gap.

Retired State Superintendent of Public Instruction and former senator Jack O’Connell, who authored the original bill that created the exam, said he was pleased the governor signed SB 172.

“Our high school exit exam was always designed to be a bridge to the next set of new state standards,” he said. “I’m a firm believer in accountability. I do think we’ll have another type of accountability system as a capstone to measure students’ progress. But the exit exam as we knew it was not aligned to the new standards and that was a problem.”

When the exit exam bill was originally passed, it was widely supported by the business community.

“With the CAHSEE in place, California’s successful high school graduates will benefit the state and national economies,” Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce said in 2006, after state courts upheld the test. “The CAHSEE is a mechanism that ensures graduating high school seniors obtain the requisite knowledge and skills needed to succeed and graduate from high school.”

Some groups advocating for low­-income and minority students supported the concept of a minimum level of achievement for a high school diploma, while calling for more resources for low­-income districts and fairer alternatives to a single test score. In 2007, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed Assembly Bill 1379, which called for studying other options.

But more recently, some opponents of the exam have argued that it has discouraged some students from staying in school and that it disproportionately punished low-­income children and English learners who were unable to pass the test. Several Republicans voted against SB 172, saying they believe the state should continue to require students to demonstrate that they have acquired basic skills and knowledge before graduation.

Rep. Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, said he was disappointed that the governor signed the bill and fears high school students may not be required to pass another such exam for years.

“It’s another step away from accountability,” he said. “Everybody worked hard and we have a pretty high graduation rate … We should have had another time certain (for a new test) so we don’t go down the road without accountability.”

Staff writer John Fensterwald contributed to this report.


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  1. Karin Reinolds 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    You can’t give them back that one day of walking with their class!!!! You can’t give that back to them !!!

  2. Viridiana Gaitan 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I have all my required credits. I did not received my diploma because I did not pass the English CAHSEE test, I passed the math CAHSEE test. I would like to now know how to get my diploma.

  3. Emelita Garcia 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I am 50 years old. I completed credits at Santa Clara adult education program toward a high school diploma in 2013 but I didn’t pass the math portion of the exit exam. Do I get a high school diploma since they have abolished the exit exam in California? Am I eligible?

  4. Amin Ajeli 2 months ago2 months ago

    I like the idea

  5. Julie 2 months ago2 months ago

    I have all my required credits. I did not received my diploma because I did not pass the Math CAHSEE test, I passed the English CAHSEE test. I would like to now know how to get my diploma.

  6. Bryan 3 months ago3 months ago

    Oh, and it takes 30-45 days to receive go to your record keeper at your district office. They’re gonna check to see if you meet all requirements like credits,community service,and senior portfolio. I don’t know if you need all of those requirements, but you do need all your credits.

  7. Bryan 3 months ago3 months ago

    It makes no sense. I went and picked mine up, and it says January 1st as the graduation date. Companies and colleges know that you obviously didn't pass the CAHSEE when you're applying so it's making it hard for you to have a better chance. It just reminds the college and employer that you didn't pass the CAHSEE. Jerry Brown needs to change the date, because it doesn’t matter if you get your diploma. The date … Read More

    It makes no sense. I went and picked mine up, and it says January 1st as the graduation date. Companies and colleges know that you obviously didn’t pass the CAHSEE when you’re applying so it’s making it hard for you to have a better chance. It just reminds the college and employer that you didn’t pass the CAHSEE.

    Jerry Brown needs to change the date, because it doesn’t matter if you get your diploma. The date is on the bill passed date.

  8. Me 3 months ago3 months ago

    I have all my credits required. I didn’t received my diploma cause I didn’t passed the English CAHSEE test I passed math but not English. I would like to now how to get my diploma.

  9. Cheryl 6 months ago6 months ago

    What year should be on the diploma? Should it be the actual year the student graduated or an altered date when the new bill went into effect?

  10. Lucas Penick 8 months ago8 months ago

    As some have pointed out, such tests do not measure student achievement or learning. Such standardized exams measure one’s ability to take the exam.

    The scores on standardized exams are best predicted by the income of the students’ parents. What happens in the classroom is not being measured, and the effectiveness of the teacher is not being measured. A host of factors unrelated to the classroom have an overwhelming effect on the performance of students on such exams.

  11. Lisa 8 months ago8 months ago

    When I was in high school, I could pass any test put in front of me because I know the tricks to passing a test. However, I never did a lick of homework and therefor graduated with a 2.18. No exit exam required; not that it would have mattered because as I said; I can pass any test I've ever come up against. So to me, and exit exam is not only a waste of … Read More

    When I was in high school, I could pass any test put in front of me because I know the tricks to passing a test. However, I never did a lick of homework and therefor graduated with a 2.18. No exit exam required; not that it would have mattered because as I said; I can pass any test I’ve ever come up against. So to me, and exit exam is not only a waste of time, but not indicitive of the knowledge in our students heads. I remember one time I took a history test as a Junior and had never even cracked my book. I got a 98% and guessed just about every other answer. Some I knew just because it was common sense. Some were just a matter of process of elimination. Of course, I’m an analyst now by profession and my brain still functions the same way. I see the patterns and can figure out the best course of action. True not every student is like me but I prefer to have my child learn how to think outside the box, not how to take a test! And common core it a joke if I ever saw one! I used to tutor up to intermediate algebra during college and now I can’t even help my own child with her math because I don’t know what purple times a bike is! Come to find out; it’s a mule!

  12. Trey Long 8 months ago8 months ago

    Lowering already pitiful standards further is a slippery slope. US K 12 education is ranked in the 30s and 40s internationally despite out spending the rest of the world. Allowing students who need remedial English into college devalues everyone’s degree.

  13. Me 8 months ago8 months ago

    We never had exit exams. Isn’t that what your finals are for in classes? With that said, this is just opening the door for common core garbage exit exams.

    “Meanwhile, lawmakers and educators will determine if the state should create a new version of the test that’s aligned with the Common Core State Standards.”

  14. Bo 9 months ago9 months ago

    I agree that there should not be social promotion, because you should pass your classes and graduate with ar least a 2.0.
    Now if you’ve passed all your classes with a 2.0 or better, then you should be able to walk. If you can’t, then you can earn a GED. No need to throw tests on top of tests.

  15. sarah 10 months ago10 months ago

    How long will it take to receive my diploma after january 1st?

    Replies

    • Fermin Leal 10 months ago10 months ago

      It depends on your school district’s timeline for processing the diplomas. Some districts have already started gong through student records, others have not. You should contact your district to find out more specific information.

  16. Kimberly romero 10 months ago10 months ago

    My friend Abel and I would like our diplomas!
    Thank you:)

  17. Dominique Renteria 11 months ago11 months ago

    I am so grateful, overwhelmed, ecstatic, and full of joy that this issue has been addressed! Now i can go to college, live my dream, and be HAPPY!!THANKYOU THANKYOU SO MUCH!

    p.s. when and how do i go about recieving my diploma?

    Stockton Ca

  18. sara 11 months ago11 months ago

    Am I able to get my diploma if I graduated on 2008. I met all the requirements except the English portion of the exit exam. I called the school they said we don’t know.
    Thank you,
    Sara

    Replies

    • Joseph Antone 11 months ago11 months ago

      I don’t think many districts have this fully planned out yet. The law allows you to ignore the CAHSEE requirement, but the districts/schools need to get into gear to figure how they’ll actually inform/print/deliver them.

  19. Parent 11 months ago11 months ago

    The CAHSEE tested only rudimentary skills. It's an indictment of the school system that any student be judged to have met all other requirements and still not be able to pass this test. What value should the public ascribe to a diploma if it is handed out to students who fail to meet such a low standard. I acknowledge that the lack of a diploma is a burden for some students however that's not … Read More

    The CAHSEE tested only rudimentary skills. It’s an indictment of the school system that any student be judged to have met all other requirements and still not be able to pass this test. What value should the public ascribe to a diploma if it is handed out to students who fail to meet such a low standard.

    I acknowledge that the lack of a diploma is a burden for some students however that’s not sufficient reason to hand out diplomas freely. We wouldn’t accept that logic for drivers licenses or any professional certification. As the article pointed out, such students may later need that diploma to go on to higher education or professional training. It would be a better solution to provide those students another opportunity to take the test and meet its standard than to just freely provide a seal of approval of their level of knowledge.

  20. Betsy Rook 11 months ago11 months ago

    I don’t like the word”fail” in the article title. It’s not a question of passing or failing a test. It’s about learning differences. Thank you Gov. Brown for finally bringing that to the attention of the state of Caliornia. Those that do not have a learning difference should be held to another standard than those that do.This will brighten the future of many students who are working very hard to receive their diploma.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 8 months ago8 months ago

      This is feel good nonsense. If you can't pass a test this easy you didn't learn differently, you didn't learn, period. You want to pretend these kids are real smart in another way, give me a break! Teachers caused this by social promotion. A C or D doesn't mean you have basic knowledge in another way. You have to be able to do math on paper, read, answer questions and … Read More

      This is feel good nonsense. If you can’t pass a test this easy you didn’t learn differently, you didn’t learn, period. You want to pretend these kids are real smart in another way, give me a break! Teachers caused this by social promotion. A C or D doesn’t mean you have basic knowledge in another way. You have to be able to do math on paper, read, answer questions and do multiple choice. Otherwise you are not a legit high school graduate. It’s not different, it’s worse.

      • shawn 5 months ago5 months ago

        Teachers didn’t cause this. Politicians and parents did.

  21. SD Parent 11 months ago11 months ago

    The CAHSEE wasn't perfect (what standardized test is), but it was a marker by which to monitor achievement gaps. With the CSTs and CAHSEE suspended, and the SBAC test deemed "too new" to be reliable for a few years, what achievement metric is there to actually measure student achievement and any gaps between the achievement of different subgroups through the LCAP? (Don't say the metric is graduation rate, as we all know social … Read More

    The CAHSEE wasn’t perfect (what standardized test is), but it was a marker by which to monitor achievement gaps. With the CSTs and CAHSEE suspended, and the SBAC test deemed “too new” to be reliable for a few years, what achievement metric is there to actually measure student achievement and any gaps between the achievement of different subgroups through the LCAP? (Don’t say the metric is graduation rate, as we all know social promotion occurs and harms the most vulnerable students.) So much for accountability. The LCAP should just be renamed the “LCP” until there are actually reliable, hard metrics for student achievement.

    For those of us who sit on high school SSCs, there are very few metrics now to use to measure student achievement. So this change also makes the SPSA and SSC process a joke.

  22. Gary Ravani 11 months ago11 months ago

    As research done by the National Research Council (NRC) confirmed, exit exams observed on a national basis did nothing to increase student learning, but did suppress graduation rates for the disadvantaged and minorities. The whole exit exam phenomenon was an outgrowth of the pseudo-accountability movement and, generally speaking, a consequence of national hysteria generated by a Nation at Risk, hyperbolic editorials by media pundits (crisis in the schools!) because "if it bleeds it leads," and … Read More

    As research done by the National Research Council (NRC) confirmed, exit exams observed on a national basis did nothing to increase student learning, but did suppress graduation rates for the disadvantaged and minorities. The whole exit exam phenomenon was an outgrowth of the pseudo-accountability movement and, generally speaking, a consequence of national hysteria generated by a Nation at Risk, hyperbolic editorials by media pundits (crisis in the schools!) because “if it bleeds it leads,” and the endless reams of propaganda churned out by right leaning think (sic) tanks.

    All in all exit exams were a disaster for kids and schools. All in all an intended consequence of the usual suspects in the anti-public schools for the public movement.

    Stanford University went on to conduct research on the impacts of the CAHSEE on CA’s students and found, like the NRC study, that it had a bias-based negative impact in disadvantaged and minority students, and particularly on Hispanic females. No one in their right minds would believe such impacts were a good thing for CA’s society, schools, or students. Good riddance to the CAHSEE and all other non-factual hysteria based efforts at pseudo-accountability.

    When actual accountability is a real social and political goal in this state or nation, the public will take note of a political system that allowed CA to fund its schools on parallel levels with the most poverty stricken states in the union, and at the national level will demand political accountability that has allowed over 22% of the nation’s students to languish in levels of poverty that exceed almost all other industrialized nations and attend schools that are more racially and economically segregated than they were prior to Brown v. the Board of Education. That would be reality-based accountability, and as the man once famously said: “You can’t handle reality!” He meant us.

    Replies

    • Tom 11 months ago11 months ago

      As usual Gary, you want more money for schools, which is fine with me provided we measure the results. How would you do that Gary without testing to demonstrate effectiveness. Would also point out the democratically controlled Legislature in California has had surplus tax money in the past 30 years and choose NOT to "adequately" fund K-12 education. We now have the spectacle of Gov. Brown wanting to fund the boondoggle high speed … Read More

      As usual Gary, you want more money for schools, which is fine with me provided we measure the results. How would you do that Gary without testing to demonstrate effectiveness.

      Would also point out the democratically controlled Legislature in California has had surplus tax money in the past 30 years and choose NOT to “adequately” fund K-12 education. We now have the spectacle of Gov. Brown wanting to fund the boondoggle high speed rail and two tunnels project instead of directing more tax money to schools. He is actually taking money FROM some school budgets by requiring additional pension payments to shore up the underfunded CALSTIRS pension account. Adding up those payments, wage and “one-time payments,” COLA, and step and ladder, has our District going negative this year – something nobody wants to talk about.

      • Gary Ravani 11 months ago11 months ago

        Tom: School funding in CA is "controlled by voter approved Prop 98. It is not really a "choice" of the legislature to fund schools. The funding is a function of a formula(s) defined in law. The only known times that I can recall that Prop 98 funding was being handled in an illegal fashion was a result of lawsuits filed against Republican governors who wanted to fund schools lower than Prop 98 called for. The … Read More

        Tom:

        School funding in CA is “controlled by voter approved Prop 98. It is not really a “choice” of the legislature to fund schools. The funding is a function of a formula(s) defined in law. The only known times that I can recall that Prop 98 funding was being handled in an illegal fashion was a result of lawsuits filed against Republican governors who wanted to fund schools lower than Prop 98 called for. The problem i that Prop 98 calls for school funding to be approximately 50% of a state budget that has been too small to meet the needs of a large, complex, state. Tie stock market surge along with Democratically driven Prop 30 has finally, and only cyclically, delivered CA’s budget into the “black” where schools and other services can be rebuilt, though it will take some time to return to adjusted fiscal levels that match those of 2007, before the financial industry driven recession.

        • navigio 5 months ago5 months ago

          Prop 98 only specifies a minimum.

  23. Tom 11 months ago11 months ago

    Am extremely disappointed about the obvious lack of planning on this basic accountability measure. The CDE should have been working on a replacement exam for at least 3 years since they were well aware of Common Core implementation. Now our great leaders want 3 more years to design a replacement exam. In the meantime, 1000's more students, particularly minority and poor, will not get the education they deserve and there will be … Read More

    Am extremely disappointed about the obvious lack of planning on this basic accountability measure. The CDE should have been working on a replacement exam for at least 3 years since they were well aware of Common Core implementation. Now our great leaders want 3 more years to design a replacement exam. In the meantime, 1000’s more students, particularly minority and poor, will not get the education they deserve and there will be no accountability for this additional example of the continuing failure of California K-12 education.

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