This story has been updated to include a statement from Gov. Jerry Brown’s office.
The state Senate on Monday unanimously approved SB 725, which would remove passing the California High School Exit Exam as a graduation requirement for the class of 2015, and the governor plans to sign it.
The Senate also approved an urgency clause that would allow the bill to go into effect immediately, if the governor signs it. Both votes were 38-0. Gov. Jerry Brown has 12 days to act on any bill that reaches his desk this week. He plans to sign the bill, said his Deputy Press Secretary Deborah Hoffman in an e-mail.
“Students who’ve been accepted into college should not be prevented from starting class this fall because of a test cancellation they could not control,” she said. “The Governor will sign this bill to ensure these students begin their college careers.”
Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, who gutted and amended a bill that previously dealt with visual and performing arts, urged her colleagues to support the legislation to allow students who completed all other graduation requirements to receive their diplomas, since the July administration of the test was canceled.
“We want to support our young people moving forward with their lives,” she said, adding that the bill had no formal opposition and received strong bipartisan support in the Assembly, where it passed 77-1. In addition, the bill was supported by school districts, educational organizations and businesses throughout the state, she said.
Sen. Carol Liu, D-Canada Flintridge, said a bill she has authored – SB 172 – will address the future of the exit exam, since the state Department of Education has not yet contracted for another test.
“Students who have not passed have no way to meet the graduation requirement,” she said. “They should not suffer due to a lack of opportunity.”
Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, and Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, criticized the abrupt decision to cancel the July test, which left thousands of students in limbo.
“It’s mindblowing to me that this even happened,” Huff said. “We need to act swiftly to update the exit exam.”
Huff said he strongly opposes Liu’s bill because he does not want to return to the days of coursework without assessments of math and language arts competency. Nielsen echoed Huff’s concerns, saying he does not want to get rid of testing.
“If test scores don’t go up, what we do is we stop testing,” he said. “And now, we’re doing it again.”
Nielsen said he wanted to know who cancelled the test and why, adding that the “perpetrators” should be punished.
“They need to be known by name to all of us,” he said. “Is that available?”
Hancock said the state’s $11 million testing contract expired. She urged the Senate to pass Liu’s bill when it is heard to allow the Legislature to look at how to develop a test with multiple measures aligned to new Common Core standards.
“The California High School Exit Exam as it exists doesn’t test what we’re teaching,” Hancock said. “I think this is what government does when it works well. We find a problem. We fix the problem. We do it in a bipartisan way. We stand by our kids.”