CAHSEE Debated: Pro and Con

PRO
By Maya Debbaneh

With the United States, especially California, falling behind in education, you would think that the vast majority of the population would be eager to ensure that students are graduating high school with a basic understanding of what they learned in ninth and 10th grade.
I’m sure many business owners and customers alike would feel very uncomfortable with a worker who was not able to pass the California High School Exit Exam, and with good reason.
It is not too much to ask that those entering our work force be competent in ninth and 10th grade-level math and English. If anything, it is too little to ask.
In order for our economy to stay competitive, we cannot continue to just shuffle students through for the sake of lower drop-out rates.
It’s true that most of those who don’t pass the test are socioeconomically disadvantaged students who do not have the same opportunities as many of their fellow classmates.
However, the fact that many who don’t past the test are underpriveleged, is no reason to lower the educational standards of our state.
If anything, this is more reason to draw attention to which students are falling behind and in what areas they need improvement.
The information and the test-taking skills needed to pass it are both valid bases on which to test students.
In addition to the test, the state and the country need to put more resources into our educational system in order to address these inadequacies.
School districts in California have been sued by students who haven’t passed the test, claiming that because they passed their classes, they should be allowed to graduate high school.
However, the fact that it’s possible for many students to pass classes, and actually do really well, while failing to pass the exit exam, reveals the variation in the quality of education from school to school in the state. This exam, or a variation of it, should ensure the quality of education is minimally consistent across the state.
Although the necessity for a high school exit exam is just an indication of deeper problems in our education system, it can be a useful tool in identifying severe problems that we can help alleviate.

Maya Debbaneh is a fourth-year political science major. She can be reached at debbanem@uci.edu.

CON
By Jacob Beizer

The California High School Exit Exam is really, really stupid. I took the test in the 10th grade and passed. In fact, I could have taken it in the fifth grade and passed. It is a simple, poorly structured exam that only makes our education system look more inadequate.
When I was a senior in high school, one of the inept administrators held an assembly in which he told my entire class that only half of us had passed the exam.
Because the exam is offered once every year, and my class was first offered an opportunity to take it our sophomore year, this means half of the students in the room were given three chances and still failed.
We began preparing for the test in the ninth grade. We took practice tests. The instructors began changing their curriculums to accommodate the subjects that were covered on the exam.
Anyone who has taken an Advanced Placement class knows how ridiculous a class can be when the teacher forces the students to take a practice AP exam every few days. Suddenly, your goal in life is not to learn useful skills, but to foil the writers of the test.
Graduation should be based on individual assessments of every student, their grades, achievements and intellect. Individual standards should be set for each student. Telling a water polo player who normally gets a 4.0 GPA that he needs to keep a 2.5 isn’t going to make his life any harder. Telling a slacker who gets a 2.5 GPA that he needs to keep a 3.0 will get his attention and make him work harder.
There is a possibility that he may simply drop out of school. If this is the case, the parents should take some responsibility for their child and say ‘No.’ I’ve known kids who did drop out of school, because there was no reinforcement of their education at home. Their parents were completely apathetic.
Customized graduation requirements may seem unrealistic, but it is already being done. Students have a minimum of units they must complete, a GPA requirement and, at some point, everyone meets with their counselor. Students in accelerated programs usually have higher expectations for graduation as part of their program.
I’m simply proposing that a similar policy be applied to all who graduate. Not everyone learns at the same pace, nor are all students extremely motivated. But that can be changed.

Jacob Beizer is a second-year English major. He can be reached at jbeizer@uci.edu.