The state of California is poised to award thousands of high school degrees to dropouts by passing a new law retroactively removing the requirement to pass a high school exit exam.
The California High School Exit Exam (CASHEE) was created in 2004, and is intended to make sure that students have a rudimentary grasp of English and mathematics before being awarded a high school diploma, and to counter the phenomenon of students receiving passing grades while learning almost nothing. The test is hardly complex. The math test, for instance, only covers 8th grade-level material andcan be passed if students answer 55 percent of questions correctly. About 80 percent of California high schoolers take and pass it on their first try while in the 10th grade, and overall passage rates for the class of 2014 were above 97 percent.
But now, a bill passed Thursday by the California legislature, which Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign, suspends the exam through 2018, while also retroactively suspending it back to 2004. That means thousands of students who failed to ever pass the exam but otherwise completed all other requirements will now be able to receive diplomas.
According to SFGate, about 40,000 people will benefit from the change by becoming newly eligible to graduate. The number could be higher, though, as 249,000 students failed to pass the test by the end of senior year from 2006 to 2014.
CASHEE was already scheduled to be on hiatus for several years while educators created a new test more in line with Common Core, which California has adopted. But the exam caused a ruckus over the summer when the state abruptly canceled a summer administration of the test and left several thousand students unable to graduate. Lawmakers moved quickly to let 2015 graduates receive diplomas without the test, but Brown then urged them to go further, and allow all prior students to receive a diploma as well.
Opposition has come from California Republicans, who argue that the test is remarkably easy and giving diplomas to those who can’t pass it will simply devalue California diplomas in general.
“It is not that rigorous,” Sen. Bob Huff told SFGate. “At least it’s something that we have a measure that they met some educational requirements. I think it’s a dumb move.”