CA Grad Test Challenged

K-12 Testing

Two years ago, successful organizing by education, civil rights and community groups pushed the imposition of California’s proposed high school graduation test back from 2004 to 2006 (see Examiner, Summer 2003).


Now, the Campaign for Quality Education seeks to further delay or modify the graduation test requirement. Senate Bill 517 would halt the test requirement in districts lacking critical resources. A recently settled school funding lawsuit against the state of California, Williams, acknowledged chronic shortages of textbooks and qualified teachers. A bill in the Assembly, AB 1531, proposes the use of multiple measures for determining graduation, possibly including the exit exam. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Superintendent Jack O’Connell support the graduation test.


The Campaign includes organizations such as Californians for Justice, Public Advocates and Coalition for Educational Justice. These groups are engaged in grassroots organizing around activities such as an April 8 rally in Los Angeles which featured Assembly member Karen Bass and state Sen., Gloria Romero, sponsors of the two pieces of legislation. The Friday afternoon rally, sponsored by more than a dozen organizations, drew nearly 400 parents, students, teachers and others. Students took a lead role in street picketing and speaking with passers-by. New United Teachers of Los Angeles President Josh Pechthalt also spoke. The union has joined the opposition to the graduation test as well as to the federal No Child Left Behind law.


Fifty-seven percent of California students did not pass one or more parts of the exam last spring, with far higher failure rates for students with disabilities, English language learners, African Americans and Latinos. Officials are considering support for a delay in the use of the exam for students with disabilities.


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