California Organizing Heats Up

K-12 Testing

A variety of groups are intensifying opposition to California’s high-stakes testing programs. As a result, school boards in Los Angeles and San Francisco have voted to oppose the state’s looming graduation test and are exploring alternative assessments. Parent and community groups are pressuring the legislature, and state lawmakers have introduced bills to end the graduation requirement.


The Los Angeles and San Francisco boards of education have approved resolutions opposing the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE - see LA story, page 7, and Examiner, Fall 2002). In San Francisco, the school board has created a committee to determine “what an educationally sound assessment system [could be] that is not attached to high stakes consequences.” The board voted to create the new committee after a previously created committee deadlocked over its purpose: to investigate alternatives or, as Superintendent Arline Ackerman wanted, to support her alignment of curriculum and instruction with the state’s testing program. The new resolution , proposed by Commissioners Mar, Sanchez and Lipton, affirms the intent to explore alternatives, “including the possibility of replacing the current system.”


Californians for Justice (CFJ) held meetings in five cities across the state in February to escalate its campaign against the state’s graduation test (see Examiner, Summer 2002). CFJ planned for lobbying throughout April and local "town meetings" in May. The California Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education (CalCARE) also has begun letter writing campaigns against the graduation requirement. This summer, the state Board of Education is expected to decide whether to postpone the planned graduation requirement for the class of 2004, unless the legislature halts it first.


State Assemblywoman Loni Hancock introduced AB 356 to eliminate three detrimental aspects of California’s high-stakes testing system: testing second-graders, the state’s test-based rewards and sanctions program, and the graduation test requirement. Among those testifying in favor of AB 356 at a March hearing were the California Teachers Association, California School Boards Association, Association of California School Administrators, California Association of Student Councils, and CFJ. Ending grade two testing had wide support, but there was much debate about the graduation requirement among Education Committee members. The Committee approved the bill, which is moving through the legislature.


• Some of the information in this article is from Social Justice and Assessment, a bi-monthly electronic newsletter focusing on the San Francisco Bay Area but including material from across California and some from around the nation.
To receive it, send an email to Kathy Emery at
• CalCARE’s website is
• CFJ’s website is