Labor Day weekend signals more than just the end of summer. It also signals the end of American innocence about public school testing and accountability. California has joined the growing list of states who are jumping on the wagon of requiring exit exams to graduate with a high school diploma. Each state currently has different graduation requirements.
While Texas began the TAKS test officially in the year 2002, the TAAS test was already in place as part of the graduation/diploma requirement. Typically, many of these students fulfill the class requirements for their district, but if they do not pass TAKS, for example, they do not ‘walk,’ nor do they get a diploma. California will now require a test for graduation.
The test, called the CAHSEE — the California High School Exit Exam — will be a state-mandated requirement beginning with the classes of 2005. Just looking at the results for all classes, groups, and subgroups of students, they look pretty darn good. Especially the passing rate for math for African American students. The two testable areas (currently) are math and ELA (English Language Arts). Since the writer is more familiar with the TAKS test, we will explore those waters to get a sense of just how deep it is for students.
If you are asking yourself “What is TAKS?”, the short answer would be that "By law, Texas students must now pass a state assessment in order to be promoted at certain grade levels and to graduate from high school.” And the more detailed answer taken from the Dennison (Texas) ISD homepage:
Students in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 are administered the state-mandated TAKS tests each spring. There are six tests at different grade levels and subject areas: Math, Reading, Writing, Science, Social Studies and English Language Arts.
By state law, before a student can receive a diploma from a Texas high school, he or she must pass all four individual exams – Math, English Language Arts, Social Studies and Science. If the student fails one or more of the tests, he or she is given several opportunities to retake the test(s) until earning a passing score. Students get their first opportunity to pass the EXIT-Level of the TAKS tests in Grade 11.
How does the new CAHSEE compare? It’s a housecat compared to the older beast known as the Texas TAKS test. However, researchers have already sharpened their pencils on this one to report that the outlook is bleak for minority students who hail from decidedly impoverished zip codes.