If Not The CAHSEE, Then What?

In a stack of papers called Testing.

  • Aug
  • 22
  • 2006

The California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) is not perfect. It lacks modifications for special education students. It fails to take into consideration the multiple ways students grow. Nor does it acknowledge the disparity in learning environments that exist across the state. The CAHSEE has problems.

But am I really to believe that it is entirely a terrible idea? Is there nothing good about the CAHSEE? Is it not even a nice place to start? Would public education be better without the exit exam?

What I Like About You

The primary reason I like the CAHSEE is because it forces students to take responsibility for their learning. Imagine a senior who cannot take a test to demonstrate understanding of concepts from 8th-grade math and 10th-grade English. Should that person receive a diploma? Is that the person you want working on your taxes or reading your resume somewhere? Is that even the person you want counting back your change or looking up your air filter part number?

Think of any type of certification that exists. Without standards in place and a standardized test created by an objective third party, how is there assurance that applicants have achieved minimum mastery of skills needed? And if anyone can earn it, the certification rapidly loses all significance. One only need look as far as the title of “minister” to see an example. You, too, can become a minister and preside over weddings at your discretion. All it’ll cost you is a nominal service fee and a 39-cent stamp.

Not Everyone Can Earn One

I said it before and I’ll say it again: If high school diplomas are to be significant, not everyone can earn one. Perhaps the exit exam does exactly what it was designed to do, act as a gatekeeper to prevent students with low skills from earning a diploma.

If not the CAHSEE, then what? How do we make sure that earning a diploma actually means anything? How do we make sure that high schools all across the state are at least roughly equal? How do we assure a minimum level of quality in our high school graduates?

Start The Revolution

The CASHEE is a test where we, as a state, say, “Look, in order to earn a diploma, you simply must demonstrate competency in these skills, some 8th-grade but most 10th-grade standards. If you cannot demonstrate these skills, we’ll help you with extra courses. You obviously missed a few things in your earlier education, but we’ll cover those topics again. We’ll also give you a total of 6 chances to pass the test. To make it easier on you, almost all make-up test sessions will be scheduled during regular school hours, the one exception being your 6th chance to pass the test. That one will be held the summer following the end of your senior year. After all that, if you still can’t demonstrate these skills, you have not earned a diploma. Our various community colleges will continue to work with you and we wish you well.”

The natural follow up would be to investigate the instruction taking place in schools, balance inequities in the quality of instructional environments, look at the course work in place to earn a teaching credential, reconfigure the “seperate but equal” ways schools are funded (basic-aid vs. revenue-limit funding), work to modify the CAHSEE so that it accurately tests what we want it to, and begin the battle with the federal government over meaningless assessment like STAR testing. This could easily lead to the overhaul of the entire public education system. I’d have front row seats to witness that one and would be a proud Californian.

But we don’t want to look there, do we? That’s all far too complicated. So let’s get rid of the CAHSEE and go back to the same way things have been done in public education for years. Let’s get rid of an exit exam and go back to blaming the teachers and the schools. Let’s all point fingers and not do anything to work on fixing it.

If not the CAHSEE, then what? Because you can’t tell me everything is alright without it.


1. Brian says:

[8/23/2006 - 1:36 pm]

Interesting story. I ran across this story regarding testing: tcnblog.com

2. bob says:

[2/7/2007 - 9:41 pm]

The CAHSEE should stay because it gives more meaning to the High School Diploma for our students.

3. Alessandro says:

[1/29/2009 - 2:42 pm]

I think the cahsee especially for special ed is ridiculas because for kids with learing disabilties can be a hard thing why can’t they just make some other test that they can do and if they pass it or don’t let’em still get their diploma and don’t have to worry about it anymore. That is what I think they should do because myself I am an 17 year old special ed senior that only just passed the math and i am getting tired of it because if i don’t get my diploma just beacuse I have to pass the english part who ever is in charge of this thing they’re dead meat. p.s. just give our dam diplomas got it.

4. Eurie says:

[4/24/2009 - 7:39 am]

I <3 CAHSEE. :)

5. Scott says:

[6/21/2009 - 12:16 pm]

The Cahsee is the most pointless test ever, yes it earns a high school diploma, but what if some students middle schools who were responsible for teaching Math and English did not do there job and as a result the teacher did not do there job and its a domino affect and if a student did not pass the math part like me our lovely state government is screwing the dog trying to figure out why is there a child behind the state of California test us too much to begin with and sets too high of a bar for the students now i may sound lazy but i am a 3.6 gpa special ed who has been in resource since 4th grade student who wants to go to college and be an officer in the US Air Force.

6. valerie says:

[7/20/2009 - 7:18 am]

CAHSEE Is Superr Retarteddddd..

7. Magnus says:

[9/28/2010 - 12:26 am]

1. California High School curriculum had already been changed at the turn of the 21st century to become harder and more challenging (in a negative way) with the previously college-level math (Geometry and Algebra) ELECTIVE courses then becoming MANDATORY courses in order to gain a Diploma. The “old” curriculum was already hard enough, there were no good and real-life applicable reasons given for them changing it, purely in order to make it even harder than really necessary.

2. California’s entire public school curriculum through the 1990’s was found to be a complete and utter failure. Therefore, it was morally incorrect of them to expect any student from those time periods with such learning gaps to be expected to be able to pass an exam that even their own parents and many other persons of the previous generations couldn’t pass themselves, but yet who still somehow have a valid Diploma while those of us who can’t pass, don’t.

3. They gave Graduating Seniors in 2006 (it’s first year as a requirement) a free-pass and an easier-obtained Diploma than the Juniors of the same year who were forced to take it, for a more difficult-ride through to their Diploma (at least that’s what occurred at my school). If we had to go through it as Juniors that year, they should have been made to go through it as Graduating Seniors of that same year as well!

4. Approximately 70% of the first students (myself included) requiring the CAHSEE Math Portion to Graduate did NOT pass it. Five years after it’s implementation, its still 50-50 on passing/failing. In plain English, it is much too difficult for mere High School students!

5. They didn’t make the officials who implemented this ridiculous exam take it before they started to shove it down our throats – same goes for the people in Government Public Education sectors, School Union District employees and especially the Teacher’s of all California Public High Schools as well! Guaranteed, 70% of them would have failed the math portion too!

6. Not every State is requiring an exit exam to pass high school, even now four years later. If one State does it, they ALL should be made to have it (simultaneous implementation) – or else none at all!

7. In the case of students who are lacking a mere 1 credit in a course they have tried to, but just cannot pass and who then decide to take the EXIT EXAM to circumvent that ONE CREDIT and get the hell out of there… even if they passed they would still be prohibited from graduating with their full Diploma without first getting that ONE, STINKING CREDIT! Thus defeating the purpose of having an EXIT EXAM in the first place, as EXIT EXAM means EXITING, Graduating, done, over with!

8. All that the CAHSEE is achieving in doing is fostering future welfare-deadbeats and for the sole reason that without a Diploma in this day and age you CANNOT get a job doing ANYTHING. Not even if you do Graduate through a “Certificate” (as I did) rather than a full and federally recognized “Diploma”. Last time I checked, it doesn’t require a Diploma to perform manual-labor or else to flip burgers!

Lastly, High School is NOT College, therefore it should NOT be as difficult as College. In the Government’s efforts to push more of the younger generations towards College by making High School similar and just as difficult, they are in fact doing nothing but steering us AWAY from College (against [for those who failed but wanted to go to college]and/or despite of our own free will [those that pass but chose not to go to College anyway]).

Absolute bottom line: if you put in the time and effort to bust your ass in order to get your passing grades in the required courses and their COURSE FINAL EXAMS, then you should get your Diploma and without having to jump through an Exit-Exam ring of fire!

8. Class of 91 says:

[8/10/2015 - 1:41 pm]

I think it’s bad that the kids go through 12 years of school and earn all of their credits only for this silly test to determine e whether or not the earn a diploma. Maybe they are not passing CAHSEE because they have test anxiety. THEY NEED TO DO AWAY WITH IT!!