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Claims for State's Exit Exam Are Flawed

June 14, 2005

Your June 9 editorial "This Is an Exit Worth Taking" argues that the exit exam has made schools identify struggling students and provide them with needed support. This claim is based on a flawed report of the state's independent evaluator, Human Resources Research Organization, or HumRRO.

HumRRO's evidence comes from 34 principals of schools that offer strong opportunities to learn -- schools where 95% of the teachers hold a full teaching credential. By contrast, only 74% of teachers hold this credential in the 144 California high schools where more than 40% fail the exit exam. Maybe the exit exam encouraged reform in some of these schools, but we simply do not know. What we do know is that schools with high failure rates are eight times more likely to have severe teacher shortages and experience critical overcrowding than schools with low failure rates. The Times -- rightly -- points to the promise of state Sen. Gloria Romero's bill to monitor conditions in high schools with high failure rates. We need to know more about the conditions in these schools so that we can create new policies and leverage new resources that enable all students to graduate with strong academic skills. But what happens to students who are denied a diploma while we study these conditions? Can we really justify using high numbers of failed students to embarrass, leverage and motivate school and policy leaders to provide adequate school opportunities?

John Rogers

Associate Director

Institute for Democracy

Education and Access, UCLA

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