Monday, May 15, 2006

Failing Students

A Superior Court Judge has single-handedly turned over the education plan that California had in place concerning penalties for not passing the California exit tests.
Despite failing California's high school exit exam, senior Mayra Ibanez may get a chance to start training next year to become a medical assistant after a judge suspended the test.

Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman's ruling Friday that the exam is discriminatory could allow Ibanez and thousands of other students who failed it to get their diplomas anyway.

Freedman also denied the state's request for a stay pending an appeal.
Keep in mind that this is a test that covers 10th grade English skills and 8th grade math skills and students need to only master 60% of the English material and 55% of the math on the test to pass. They have been given several opportunities to retake the test and special assistance to help them. This isn't a surprise to the students; they've known for their entire high school careers that they needed to pass the test. These are multiple choice questions with four possible choices. But now we have a judge stepping in and saying he knows better than the California educators who set up the program and the legislators who approved it. The worst problem is for the Spanish-speaking students who haven't mastered English yet. These students want to graduate with all their peers. But they don't have the skills. So, what is more important - their self-esteem and ability to have a diploma that lets them get started on their adult lives or making sure that they already know the minimum for a high school student. The judge has decided that it is discriminatory to have a test that they can't pass. Well, that is what a test is supposed to do - discriminate between those who know the material and those who don't. What does a California high school diploma mean now? All it does is certify attendance basically since you have students who don't have a knowledge of middle school math or basic English being passed out of the high schools. As Debra Saunders writes,
At issue is the larger question of whether schools exist to make children learn or to make children feel good. If Freedman decides that undereducated students can graduate because it's not fair to deny them a diploma, Sacramento might as well give up on improving the schools.

The state might as well save itself some money, and issue an edict that says poor and immigrant students shouldn't have to learn math and English -- because it is not fair to expect them to achieve.
Sure, it's tough to go to a new country and learn in a foreign language. Perhaps, these students need an extra year of intensive English study. That is a dismal prospect for an 18-year old kid, but what they don't need is the reinforcement from a judge that it is fine if they don't learn because California doesn't expect them to do so.