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Bill Postpones Exit Exam From High School 2 Years

Assembly OKs measure. Its author says students are unprepared for test. The state education board is set to consider a similar proposed delay.

June 05, 2003|Duke Helfand | Times Staff Writer

The state Assembly has passed a bill that would postpone California's high school exit exam for two years.

The action sets up a race of sorts between the Legislature and the state Board of Education, which will consider a similar proposal as early as next week.

Passing the exam of math and English-language arts skills is currently a graduation requirement for students starting with the Class of 2004.

The Assembly bill, which passed 44-32 late Tuesday night, would trump any action by the state education board. The legislation to delay the test requirement until the Class of 2006 still must pass through the Senate and get Gov. Gray Davis' signature. It is expected to be reviewed by a Senate committee by the end of the month.

Assemblywoman Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), who wrote the measure, complained that many students haven't had an adequate opportunity to prepare for the test.

She pointed to a recent state-mandated study that found that just 60% of students in the class of 2004 have passed the math portion of the test so far. Students can take the test as many as seven times, starting in 10th grade.

"Until we make it possible for every child to have smaller classes, qualified teachers and up-to-date material so they can learn the subject matter, it is really not fair to penalize [them]," Hancock said.

Reed Hastings, president of the state education board, said he too favors a delay of two years. He questioned whether the exam could withstand a legal challenge brought by students who contend they lacked adequate resources, such as qualified teachers, to help them learn the material on the exam.

The test is based on the state's new academic standards, which have been slowly making their way into schools in the last few years.

"If students did not have the opportunity to learn, it would get thrown out by the courts, and that wouldn't serve anybody well," Hastings said.

According to current law, the state board must decide by its July meeting whether to delay enforcement of the exam.

Such a move would require a vote of at least six of the 10 board members; at least five, including Hastings, have said they support a postponement.

Aside from dealing with the exit exam, Hancock's bill also calls for eliminating state testing of second-graders, a move she said would save the state more than $3 million a year.

The state currently tests students in grades 2 to 11, but Hancock said the state program should mirror requirements in the nation's new education law, which calls for states to start testing students in the third grade.

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