Thursday, August 18, 2005

Effect of California High School Exit Exam

Effect of California High School Exit Exam
Subject of San José Conference

Tens of Thousands of California Students Will Not Receive a High School Diploma Because of High School Exit Test-Accurate Data to be Released at Conference

Conference Will Explore the California Exit Tests' Relation to School Quality and Dropouts

What: California High School Exit Exam Convening
When: Tuesday, August 23, 2005, 10:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Where: National Hispanic University, 14271 Story Road, San José, California

(San José, California) - On August 23, local, state and national education experts, advocates and students will join community members and educators in San José to focus on research on the potentially devastating effects of California's High School Exit Exam on California students and communities.

Despite recent research studies showing an alarmingly low 71 percent high school graduation rate in California, the Exit Test will first be used as a bar to high school graduation in May 2006. This exam is being laid on a system of public schools with blatant inequalities.

According to the California Department of Education, more than 50,000 California potential 2006 graduates have not yet passed the English-Language Arts test and more than 50,000 California potential 2006 graduates have not passed the Mathematics test. Under present law, a student must pass both of these tests to receive the diploma they have been working toward for 12 years, regardless of their grades or the educational opportunities they have had.

"These statistics greatly underestimate the real barriers created by the tests," noted Dr. Gary Orfield, Director of The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University. "California hasn't told us how many students have failed to pass both tests. As with its shocking dropout statistics, California does not know how many students are just leaving school instead of continuing to take a test they see no realistic opportunity to pass." A recent national report by CEP decried the extremely negative effect of exit tests on English Language Learners.

Unveiling a report from UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA), Professor John Rogers provides new analyses of data just released by the California Department of Education on August 15, 2005. Rogers offers a far more realistic estimate of the effects of the exit tests on students of color, students with disabilities, English Language Learners and students attending schools identified by the Williams case and the No Child Left Behind Act as not meeting state educational standards. "Students in schools with the highest rates of failure," Rogers reports, "have been denied access to qualified teachers and other conditions essential for learning. It's unspeakable that these students must pay such a high price for the state's failure to educate them."

Liz Guillen of Public Advocates will speak at the conference on the proposals for legislative reform before the California Legislature. "The exam by itself is not a true accountability measure. Real accountability would ensure that the State and schools are actually providing students adequate opportunities to learn."

Speakers at the conference will also discuss the increasing use of high school exit tests during the last decade, the extremely negative effects the tests are having on students of color, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities. Leading scholars such as Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond and Dr. Jeannie Oakes will describe alternatives in use in other states, the California drop out rate and its effect on California's economy, and the relationship of the test to the special issues of urban education and proper test use.

During the conference, local educators and community members will join with state and national experts to discuss how to respond to the upcoming final implementation of the testing system, and have real discussions of the positives and negatives of this type of testing.

The conference will end with a panel of California High School students discussing the effects these tests will have on them and their fellow students.

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CO-SPONSORS: The conference is co-sponsored by The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, Public Advocates, Californians for Justice, Bay Area Legal Aid, California Rural Legal Assistance, Legal Advocates for Children & Youth, National Hispanic University, Public Interest Law Firm, Youth Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Dr. Roberto Cruz Foundation. It is supported by a grant from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
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