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Special Ed Students Exempted From Exam

January 31, 2006|Duke Helfand | Times Staff Writer

High school seniors with disabilities will be spared this year from California's new exit exam under legislation signed Monday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The reprieve applies only to special education students who are on track to graduate. All other high school seniors must still pass the English and math test to earn a diploma.

Legislators and state education officials must find a permanent solution for special education students, who have higher failure rates than any other group.

"Today we have given many high school students and their families peace of mind as they prepare for graduation," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

The one-year exemption grew out of a 2000 lawsuit alleging that the exam was unfair and discriminatory against special education students.

The test is pegged to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade levels in math, and ninth- and 10th-grade levels in English. Students have to answer only about half of the questions correctly to pass and can take it multiple times.

Even so, about 23,000 high school seniors in special education -- or nearly two-thirds of all disabled seniors -- had not passed one or both sections of the exam at the end of last school year, state results showed.

To qualify for this year's exemption, special education students must have failed the test at least twice since 10th grade and must then have been provided remedial instruction to help them pass.

State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), who introduced the exam legislation, Senate Bill 517, called the governor's signature a "limited victory."

Romero said she would seek a moratorium on the test until the Legislature can study its relevance for high school students.

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