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High School Exit Exam Tests Student Standards

October 06, 2002

Re "State Ponders Delaying Exit Exams Due to Failures," Oct. 1:

During the deliberations of the High School Exit Exam Advisory Panel from July 1999 to January 2002, I, along with many others, suggested delaying the consequences of the exam from applying to the class of 2004 to the class of 2008.

My students have the benefit of a qualified mathematics teacher who majored in math in college. Many students in our state are not so fortunate. They are not being taught by qualified math teachers.

The problem, as explained by members of the advisory panel, is as severe in rural districts as it is in urban ones.

The members of the class of 2004 have not had the benefits of class-size reduction or other state-mandated reforms. Yet they are being held accountable for concepts that are based on elementary and middle school instruction.

The entire process of the high-stakes California High School Exit Exam was pushed through in haste.

Unfortunately, the students are the ones most likely to suffer if the state Board of Education chooses not to delay the requirement.

Betsy Adams

Rancho Palos Verdes

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As a high school math teacher I can sympathize with the ninth- to 11th-graders and their situation. For the first time in their academic careers they are being held accountable for their learning. Unfortunately, some students are being held accountable after being promoted through the system for eight years.

There is no exit exam for elementary or middle school, only high school. It would make more sense to phase it in at the lower levels, as the students would have more time for remediation should they fall behind.

However, the high school exit exam only tests through ninth-grade English and mathematics skills. A high school senior unable to pass this exam should not be awarded a diploma, as basic high school proficiency has not been demonstrated.

If the state delays implementation of the exit exam, the message I hear is: "We will water down the test even more so that 90% of the students can pass it so we will not be sued."

The message I would like to hear is: "High school graduates must demonstrate a minimum competency in ninth-grade English and mathematics or a high school diploma will not be awarded."

Brian Herbelin

Etiwanda

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