Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2006 Editorial • High school exit exam is like a tempest in a teapot

Sometimes we must face facts and learn to roll with the punches and accept the evitable — to earn a diploma in California, students must   pass the two-part California High School Exit Exam.

The test often referred to as CAHSEE is here to stay, and we agree with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell when he said, “For non-special education students, … I am convinced that the only way to make sure all of our graduates have the critical skills they need in adulthood is through requiring passage of the high school exit exam.”

Students, who are not in special education or have other identified learning disabilities, should be able to show they know fundamental English language arts and math skills.  Traditional students, those still in high school, begin taking the test in spring of 10 th grade and have six other chances to take and pass the tests. The test covers students should know at the end of their freshman year.

Recently, Lassen Union High School District Alternative Education Principal Nancy Albers reported 90 percent of students enrolled in the Diploma Gold Adult School passed the English language arts portion and 66 percent passed the math portion. She said the adults took home the tutorial curriculum and studied. She also said the students were older adults with jobs and families. What she didn’t say, and we surmise to be the case, is these adults also had the desire to get a diploma and knew without passing CAHSEE their struggle to get the coveted sheep skin would be in vain.

The tempest in the teapot approach should not be tolerated from complaining high school students and parents. CAHSEE is an equal, impartial test on knowledge — you pass or fail. There is no teacher’s decision to offer extra credit or round up a grade.  We need to encourage students to study for the test and pass it. One would think the students would realize passing CAHSEE is as important as getting a driver’s license.

It is not too much to ask for our Lassen County graduates to know fundamentally how to read, write and do basic math. Without elemental knowledge of the three R’s, our students will fail in life or have a late start.

We applaud the four Lassen County high schools and charter schools for offering tutoring, refresher courses and curriculum to study before administering the test three times a year. And we encourage the schools to keep hunting for new ways to help special education students, those who are socially and/or economically challenged and those who are English learners pass the CAHSEE.

However, for the average student, it is time to stop trying to get rid of the test. CAHSEE should be lauded as an achievement and a worthy goal to achieve. If older adults who have been out of school a few years can pass, then so can our current high schoolers.