"Class of 2013 -This is Only a Test"

Ah, the wonderful world of academia! Today and tomorrow on every public high school campus across California, the class of 2013 is taking the state mandated CAHSEE. (California High School Exit Exam) Today from 8am until 2pm, I had the odious honor of assisting in the administration of the exam.  Actually I was merely one of many watch dogs there to ensure that there was no cheating on the exam. The grueling two part examination will ultimately determine a student’s readiness to receive a diploma. There is no graduation for those who fail one or both parts of the Language Arts/Math exit exam.

Now I’m not against testing students, testing is an integral part of the educational process I just don’t believe that a student’s graduation eligibility should be determined by one exam. It has been my experience as a teacher and counselor that there are several extremely capable students who just aren’t good test takers. They simply don’t do well under pressure. Is it really fair to these students that their graduation rests on this single test? I think not. Graduation should be a reward for completing the required classes, earning the required credits and fulfilling a number of assigned tasks over the four year high school period. How then can graduation hinge on one exam? Oh the state is kind, and does give students at least five additional opportunities to retake the exam during their junior and senior year, but a poor test taker can have a hundred opportunities and still not do well. If it were up to me the exit exam would go the way of the dinosaur or simply be one of several evaluative tools for determining graduation eligibility.

As I moved around the gymnasium watching the two hundred plus test taking, tenth graders, on their faces I saw determination, apprehension, doubt, fear, anxiety and sadly, indifference. As in years past there were those who were giving less than their best effort and were simply going through the motions. Our pass rate is usually around 82%. The 18% who were there today physically but not mentally, will be scrambling to get the exit exam passed come senior year. I’ve seen it happen many times before. It’s a shame, but each year I have a handful of seniors who fail to pass the exam and do not graduate.

Watching the young test takers I couldn’t help but imagine what the future might have in store for them. Those with the drive and ambition to face the challenge of tomorrow could go on to be the next generation of doctors, lawyers, scientists, policemen, firemen, teachers, politicians, or businessmen, the future is theirs! But what of those with less ambition, those who tend to be the followers who don’t have the support they need to be successful?  What does their future hold? Will they be able to rise above their shortcomings, their insecurities and make something of themselves? Will they recognize opportunity, seize it and use it to their advantage? Or will they settle for less and live their lives the same way they approached their exam today with indifference and a half-hearted effort? I certainly hope not. They deserve so much more than that…

Just a thought…



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