SACRAMENTO – Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell refused Friday to offer alternatives for California students who fail the state’s high school exit exam, including those slated to graduate in June. “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,” he said in a statement. The Class of 2006 is the first required to pass the exam to earn a diploma. The exam has angered some parents and lawmakers, who say it will hurt thousands of California high school seniors who have not been able to pass the test’s English and math sections. A report in September found that a fifth of the class of 2006 had not passed the California High School Exit Exam by their junior year, prompting O’Connell to consider alternative assessments. The effect on special education students, who must pass the same test as their classmates, has been a particular concern among lawmakers. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson O’Connell took public testimony on the issue for several weeks before deciding against providing alternatives to the exam. Instead, he said he will encourage the Legislature to increase funding for adult education, summer school and independent study programs for students who fail it. “To be clear, this does not mean, as some have said, that those students who have been unable to pass the exam will be denied a diploma indefinitely,” he said. “It simply means that their basic education is not complete and they must continue on through our K-12 system, adult education or community colleges to obtain the necessary skills to warrant receipt of a diploma.” Los Angeles Unified officials supported O’Connell’s decision, saying as a district they need to be able to demonstrate that all their students can pass the exam. Some 7,500 of the 36,000 students in LAUSD’s Class of 2006 still need to pass one or both parts of the exam, with just one more chance to take it this spring, officials said. If they still fail, they can attend summer school and take the test in the fall. “At some point there is an accountability issue that we as educators have to address and that means it’s not just a question of passing CAHSEE – it’s a bigger question of the accountability of the system to that young person,”, said Bob Collins, chief instructional officer of secondary instruction at LAUSD. “As an institution, we have to be able to say we’ve done everything we can to ensure that youngster has earned the skills necessary to earn a high school diploma.” LAUSD officials said they are pouring resources into ensuring students pass the test, including after-school and Saturday school programs. They have also created two courses at the high school level to assist kids in learning the necessary skills, and they will provide in the two weeks prior to the next test on Feb. 7 a two-week CAHSEE boot-camp, Collins said. The district is also in discussion with local community colleges and adult school programs to allow those kids who don’t pass the test to begin a post-secondary education with the opportunity to receive a high school diploma. Collins said the district’s next step is to target high-schoolers early on with education reform to prevent reaching a point where thousands of students have not passed the exam by their senior year. Advocates for special education students and minorities have criticized the Department of Education for failing to offer alternatives, such as judging a student’s portfolio of work or offering certificates for completing course. The review of the exam found the success rates were lower for minority and low-income students in both subject areas. It also recommended that the state follow through with its plan to make the test mandatory for this year’s senior class but said state officials should devise specific options for students who can’t pass in time. The exam prompted advocates for special education students to sue the Department of Education last year. Special education students fall under a broad category, ranging from those with learning disabilities to those with severe handicaps. A settlement was announced in August and would have given special education students a one-year reprieve from the requirement that they pass the exam. O’Connell then proposed legislation to implement the agreement. Under it, students requesting the exemption would have to show they had taken the test at least twice since their sophomore year and at least once during their senior year. They also would be required to take remedial courses if offered by their schools. But lawmakers altered the settlement’s terms, expanding it to a two-year exemption. That prompted O’Connell to withdraw his support, and Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill in September. On Friday, O’Connell said he will introduce a bill within a week that is similar to the one he proposed last year to implement the legal settlement. It also would exempt special education students for one year only, he said. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
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