You study hard in your classes and earn passing grades. You stay on task during your school day, dutifully complete the work waiting at home, stay out of trouble, and attend school as often as your health permits. The remaining hurdle, a test that assesses your ability to show mastery of several 8th grade and many 10th grade state standards in English and mathematics, wavers in the distance, flapping in the wind of your graduation gown. Will you try everything within your power to pass this test?
Of course not! You’ll sue! And many adults will back you up.
What Took You So Long?
If real problems with the test exist, why did people wait until the last minute to bring these issues up and to bring them into court? Is it because your kids are finally up against the fence and have to face the fact that they’ve squandered their 12 years of free public education? We’ve known about this test as a graduation requirement for the class of 2006 since 2004 and the legislation for the test passed in 1999.
No Opportunity Means A Problem With Schools, Not The Test
Lead attorney Arturo Gonzales makes a good point that “many students in California have not been given a fair opportunity to learn the material on the exam.” That’s a horrible thought, one that indicates bad teachers and bad schools. But I have no idea how he could possibly prove it to be true. Nor do I know how he has the gall to come out and say something that I believe would legally be defined as slander, though I’m not certain since I’m no lawyer.
But let’s pretend that Gonzales is correct. Does that point out a problem with the exam or with schools? Certainly, it points to a problem with both, but an exam is simply one thing and is easily modified. Schools represent a system and if that system is broken, that’s a huge issue that affects 100% of the population, much larger than a single exam. If what Gonzales is saying is correct and it actually can be proven, then that’s as loud a call for complete school reform as I’ve ever heard. Sadly, instead of using this idea to usher in systematic change, the idea is used to attack a test, perhaps one of the only tests that students are actually held accountable for and upon which they simply must perform, taking some responsibility for their own education.
One Giant Step
The CAHSEE, the best thing to happen to the public education system in a long time, is not flawless; it’s a gigantic step in the right direction, though. Now, if we could use the CAHSEE to replace silly, meaningless exams, like the battery of tests that fall under the STAR designation, and encourage colleges to consider CAHSEE scores when weeding through applicants, we’d have a test that students would really care about doing well on.
How Do You Sleep At Night?
Shame on adults who encourage students suing the state for requiring a test that demands proficiency or even mastery of standards that should have been covered 2 years prior to graduation. Shame on lawyers who accept these suits and build cases against a test that will at least begin to set a bar for those who want a high school diploma to mean something.
If high school diplomas are to be significant, not everyone can earn one.
Now, I will admit that there seems to be something fishy with the lack of an alternative to a standardized test. My understanding is that the legislation mandating the CAHSEE states that there be an alternative made available to those who choose to pass this requirement another way than the traditional test. Go ahead and sue on those grounds; I’m happy to support such a case since the state should have been working on that alternative this entire time.
But to sue on the grounds that the material hasn’t been covered in class is ridiculous. If a child is in a class that doesn’t teach him or her what’s needed to pass the CAHSEE, the parent shares blame for not complaining to the school, withdrawing the student from the class, transferring from the school, or requiring the child to attend after school study sessions for the test. At some point, a child must take accountability for his or her learning (or lack thereof). You can lead a horse to water…