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High School Exit Exam Has Fans and Foes

LETTERS TO THE TIMES

June 29, 2003

Re "Exit Exam Fails the Test," June 14:

As a retired life-time educator, it pains me terribly to observe the terrible waste of human and financial resources going into flawed programs of "toughening up" educational requirements, including the testing mania and the imposition of college entrance courses on all students.

The emphasis should be to offer educational opportunities to fit the wide variety of student needs, not to fit every student to a rigid set of controls. For many students, it seems to me obvious that it is more important that they be taught to balance a checkbook, compare discounted prices, understand interest costs, and many other everyday numerical situations, than to recognize the value of "d" from a diagram showing a slope of two-thirds to receive a diploma.

The specific arithmetic needs for success in the many vocational careers for which we should be preparing students should be taught in conjunction with those courses.

Gene Barmore

Huntington Beach

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Re "High School Exit Exam Faces Delay," June 14:

Undoubtedly, the California high school exit exam could use some fine tuning as a result of its hasty establishment. Delaying it, however, would send the message to students that, once again, their actions have no consequences.

As a middle school reading-intervention teacher, I struggle daily trying to get students who, for a number of reasons, are significantly below grade level in reading to bring their skills up to par. Unfortunately, the prior school experiences of many of these students have led them to a point where they see no reason to put forth any effort to improve. There are no negative consequences for students not trying.

Schools have contributed further to the problem with grading practices based not on defined, quantifiable grade level standards attained but on more nebulous factors such as the perceived "effort" made by a child or, sadly, parental pressure. Instruction is often modified to the skill level of the students, which explains why a student reading at the third grade level in seventh grade could still receive an A in his language arts class.

The exit exam has given me a tangible reason to explain to both students and parents why it is imperative to work hard in school. Failure to pass it means no high school diploma, something most people view as an absolute minimum requirement for future financial independence. Delaying it would simply be one more indication that education is not to be taken seriously. After all, they delay it two years now, they'll probably delay it again later, right? Maybe forever.

Linda Summers

Brea

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Postponing or canceling the high school exit exam sends the wrong message to parents, teachers, students and society at large. A simple solution would be to keep the exit exam to earn a full diploma and offer a certificate of completion for earning the credits/units for graduation.

Students who do not pass by the end of their senior year could come back again and again until they pass the exam and earn the full diploma. A win-win in my book.

Michael Erickson

Laguna Niguel

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