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State Sued Again Over Exit Exam

A group says education officials took too long to consider alternatives to the high school test.

April 19, 2006|Hemmy So | Times Staff Writer

A grass-roots advocacy group sued the state in Alameda County Superior Court this week, seeking more time for the Legislature to review alternatives to the high school exit exam.

If successful, thousands of public high school students in the class of 2006 who have failed the test would receive their diplomas.

The suit was brought by the nonprofit San Francisco law firm Public Advocates on behalf of the Californians for Justice Education Fund. It alleges that the state Board of Education and Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell reviewed exam alternatives too late for lawmakers to consider or implement them.

It is the second exit exam-related lawsuit filed this year. Ten high school students and their parents sued in February to stop the exam, alleging the state did not adequately prepare all students for the test or find alternatives.

"California officials have had five years to develop workable alternatives, but they didn't even start looking until December," Public Advocates managing attorney John T. Affeldt said.

"This suit is to ensure that 48,000 high school students won't have to pay the consequences for the superintendent and state Board of Education's delay" in considering alternatives, he said.

In 1999, state legislators approved the high school exit exam but also mandated a study of alternatives to show a student's academic competency to receive a diploma.

O'Connell began a study in December that reviewed 19 exam alternatives. In March, the Board of Education unanimously rejected those alternatives, based on O'Connell's recommendation.

"To date, the department has not identified an alternative that would be a practicable alternative that would ensure students have competency in areas tested by the exit exam," said Hilary McLean, spokeswoman for O'Connell.

McLean said the superintendent was confident that state requirements for studying alternatives had been met and stood by the exam requirement.

The exit exam, which students can take multiple times beginning in their sophomore year, tests math and English skills.

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