CAHSEE no longer a grad requirement


Aria Frangos

Many students have strong opinions on the effectiveness of standardized testing like the CAHSEE.

Aria Frangos, Scot Scoop Editor

Accurate student assessment — that elusive method of finding out if a student is good enough at schoolwork to move on with his or her life.

Some tests are better than others. The California Assessment High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) has been deemed part of the “others” category. Having reached the end of its contract with the state, the exam will not be renewed this year.

“Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 725, exempting students in the class of 2015 from needing to pass the CAHSEE to receive a high school diploma,” said Carlmont Principal Ralph Crame.  “This means we can issue a diploma to any student who completed the graduation requirements but did not pass the CAHSEE for the class of 2015.”

The CAHSEE has been a requirement for graduation since the senior class of 2006. However, this decision to change the requirements did not come entirely as a surprise.

“Carlmont anticipated this news, since the exam was temporarily suspended over the summer,” said Carlmont Instructional Vice Principal Jennifer Cho. “As a result, no CAHSEE prep classes were offered this school year.”

The main issue leading to CAHSEE exemption for these students was the case of about 5000 students who needed to take the CAHSEE in July in order to graduate, but “the $11 million-a-year contract to administer the test was not renewed, and therefore the July exam was not offered as in past years,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a public statement.

Senate Bill 725 as passed by a 37-0 vote on Aug. 24, sending the bill to Governor Jerry Brown. Brown signed it on Aug. 26, and the thousands of students unable to get to college or the military because of the CAHSEE graduation requirement had that obstacle cleared.

“The governor signed this bill to ensure that  these students begin their college careers,” said Deputy Press Secretary Deborah Hoffman.

California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), uses the computer-based Smarter Balanced test that was implemented for the first time in assessment of last year’s junior class. Smarter Balanced test results may be a possible replacement for the abandoned CAHSEE requirement.

Some are concerned, however, that the Smarter Balanced test may be more difficult than the CAHSEE, and students may be less likely to pass testing based on a Common Core curriculum they have only been introduced to in the past year.

Currently, Torlakson is required to deliver recommendations about what to do for future assessments to the State Board of Education on or before March 1, 2016.

“I’m glad the CAHSEE is gone, because for me it was a really easy test and it felt like a waste of  time to do it,” said senior Kana Limpanukorn. “[However], there should be something to test people’s proficiency at basic spelling and math and such, because people do fail the CAHSEE. It honestly just seems silly to make kids in AP classes take them, though. They couldn’t be in AP if they didn’t have the skills to pass the CAHSEE.”

Beyond what will happen with any kind of high school exit exam requirement in the future, there is also the significant question of how this may impact past students who couldn’t pass the CAHSEE.

“District and Site leadership are working together to determine the next steps. One pending question is whether students from past years may come back to receive their diploma if the only lacking requirement for graduation was passing the CAHSEE exam,” said Cho. “We don’t have that answer yet, but clarity is sure to come shortly.”

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