Judge Set To Block Exit Exam

Laurel Rosenhall and Cameron Jahn, Sacramento Bee, May 9, 2006

High school seniors who flunk the controversial state exit exam may be able to graduate next month anyway, according to a judge’s tentative ruling issued late Monday.

Setting the stage for heated debate in court today between supporters and opponents of the California High School Exit Exam, Alameda Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman said he is likely to rule that the test cannot take effect this year as scheduled.

The statement comes as tens of thousands of seniors sit down to retake the test today and Wednesday, their final chance before most schools are scheduled to hold graduation ceremonies.

The court’s preliminary injunction against the state would allow students to graduate this year if they’ve met all requirements for graduation—other than passing the test of basic math and English skills. It would mark a huge setback for state officials, who are eager to implement the test they see as the cornerstone of California’s school accountability system.

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Gonzalez’s suit against the state alleges that the exit exam is fundamentally unfair because students who are poor, ethnic minorities or not native English speakers go to schools with fewer resources. It cites numerous perceived inequities in the way the state educates its 6 million public school students—from teacher preparation to funding for exam preparation classes.

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Students first take the exit exam as sophomores. If they fail, they have five more chances to pass by the end of their senior year. The majority of students in the class of 2006 passed the first time they took the test, but pass rates were lowest among several groups of students including African American and Latinos, as well as those who are poor, learning English and have disabilities.

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