CAHSEE Poses Greater Obstacle to Graduation

The California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) has been administered four of five times since the beginning of the school year.

Each year, the Sophomore Class takes the CAHSEE for the first time in February. Juniors and seniors who have not passed the CAHSEE are given opportunities in November, March or May to retake the tests. Students take the test once sophomore year, up to two times their junior year, and up to four times their senior year until they pass.

Since 2001, passing both the math and English Language portions of the CAHSEE have been graduation requirements for all high school students in California in addition to completing of class credits. The CAHSEE seems to be a more challenging requirement.

“It is very rare that students don’t meet 220 [class credits],” Principal Wynne Satterwhite said.

Last year was the first year there were students who did not graduate because of the CAHSEE. The number of students unable to receive diplomas because of the CAHSEE seems to be increasing in recent years, according to Satterwhite.

In the class of 2007, fewer than 10 students did not receive a diploma because they failed to pass the test; they received certificates of completion instead. On the March test date, there were more juniors and seniors taking the test in hopes of passing this year than the same time last year.

As of now, there are 14 seniors who have not passed math and 17 who have not passed language arts, 7 of which have not passed either section. In the Class of 2007, only 4 seniors had not passed math and 11 had not passed language arts by May.

However, students have additional opportunities to receive diplomas by passing the CAHSEE through Adult Education up to one year after their expected graduation date.

In the past, the state has offered waivers for students with learning disabilities. However, according to Satterwhite, this option has been discontinued due to various court appeals of the Chapman rule.

The school offers preparation classes that particularly aim to help struggling students pass both portions. These classes are taught by math teacher Teresa Nesmith and English teacher Hector Perez during seventh period.

“I feel that the class has been effective for those students who possess academic acumen, desire and ability.

According to Satterwhite, having the classes during seventh period allows students to conveniently leave the class once they pass the exam. The school offers waivers to parents if they want to exempt their children from the prep class.

Many students who do not pass are hindered by language barriers and may transfer in as juniors and seniors, giving them fewer opportunities to pass.

“I think we’ve had a group of students transferring in with lower skills,” Satterwhite said.

Perez works with many of these students.

“Some students came from rural environments in which they did not receive an adequate education in their native language; therefore, those students are limited both by the foreign language and by a lack of basic academic skills,” Perez said.

Despite this, according to Satterwhite, the school’s census numbers are “some of the highest in the country” and “unheard of” in other areas of the state.