California instituted standardized exit exams for all high school students in 2004, fully implementing the requirement in 2006. Prior to the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), each school district had developed its own exit exams, known as the High School Competency Exams, a practice that began in 1977. But now, at last, these tests stand on the brink of being phased out altogether.
In the CAHSEE, despite the ‘Exit’ part of its name, students begin to take it in their sophomore year of high school. Approximately 170 questions focused on exclusively on English and mathematics, it is notoriously strict. Students only need a score of 60% to pass, yet fewer than 85% of students pass it on their first try. A passing grade on both halves of the test is necessary to graduate.
Fortunately, every student gets at least two (up to eight, depending on their school polices) tries to pass the test before their senior year.
But this year, state lawmakers in California have agreed that the Common Core learning standards have made the exit exam outmoded and redundant. Common Core comes with its own standardized tests, after all. The Assembly Education Committee voted 5-0 on legislation that, if passed, will put the exam on indefinite hold while a committee evaluates its continued usefulness.
But even in limbo, the test proves a vexation for some students. Approximately 5000 current students across the state are currently in a very uncomfortable position. Until the legislation passes, their schools still require the exam. But the California Department of Education has canceled their July tests and won’t restart them until directed by lawmakers.
School districts are stuck waiting for clarification, and students are stuck waiting for their diplomas. No one is sure what this will mean long-term for those students.