Families sue California Edu-Nazis Feb 11, 2006 10:57:14 GMT -5
Post by Moses on Feb 11, 2006 10:57:14 GMT -5
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State sued over its exit exams
By Jeremy Walsh - Staff Writer
Just 12 days after a new law exempted disabled students from having to pass the California High School Exit Exam in order to graduate, a San Francisco law firm has filed a suit hoping to revoke the requirement for all graduating seniors. Schools on the Ridge do not face many of the setbacks outlined in the suit.
Morrison and Foerster LLC filed the suit on behalf of all current high school seniors who have fulfilled all of the other graduation requirements. Among other issues, Arturo Gonzalez, the lead attorney in the suit, claims the exit exam is unfair to minorities and English-language learners.
2006 is the first year passing the exam would be mandatory for graduating seniors to receive a high school diploma. The requirement was originally scheduled to take effect in 2004. Students in the Paradise Unified School District can take the test once in the 10th grade, twice in 11th grade, and three times as seniors until they pass both the English language arts and math sections.
The content of the exam is aligned with state curriculum standards, which supporters say makes it no extra burden on students.
"There's been a lot of work done to make the test a reasonable assessment for students, and I think for most students, it is a reasonable assessment," said Laura Dearden, PUSD's assistant superintendent of curriculum.
Students at Paradise High School most recently took the exam this week.
"We felt like it was a very successful administration," Dearden said. ["We FELT LIKE"?! -- and this is an "educator" imposing high stakes testing on helpless students who have been subjected to an "education" imposed by people like this?]
But Gonzalez argues sometimes hardworking students still fail the exam because they are disadvantaged, often hailing from schools in poorer areas.
"Students in schools with low exit exam pass rates (where less than 70 percent of students have passed either the math or English section) are six times more likely to be in a critically overcrowded school, 11 times more likely to be in a school with acute shortages of fully credentialed teachers, and three times more likely to be in a school where at least 50 percent of math classes are taught by teachers not certified (in the subject)," the lawsuit alleges.
Gonzalez also warned English-language learners may fail the English portion of the test despite dedicated study and good grades.
Dearden said this issue doesn't really apply to the Ridge, noting there were no English-language learners among the 10th-graders who took the test this week.
"We have very few English-language learners to start with," she said. "We have had English-language learners who have been in our district for a considerable amount of time successfully pass the exam. I think the exam is most challenging for English-language learners that have been in the United States or in California for a shorter period of time, because they haven't had time to learn the language and be prepared for it."
Gonzalez said that at the start of the year, 100,000 students had not yet passed the exit exam. He added his firm filed a public records request trying to determine how many students had passed the November exit exam, but said the state refuses to release those figures.
"I had eight students lined up for this lawsuit, and only one of them passed in November," he said. "I think it's a reasonable conclusion that the number (who didn't pass) must be very high, otherwise the state would be willing to release it."
In January, State Super-intendent Jerry O'Connell told the Sacramento Bee 19,000 seniors have passed the math section in the last few months and 20,000 have passed the English section.
In Paradise, the number of 12th-graders who had not yet passed the test is between 20 and 30 out of a class of 451. Dearden said the exam costs the district more in terms of manpower and time than the state reimburses in apportionments for completed exam forms, but remains supportive of the test. She does not believe the state will rescind the graduation requirement.
"The communications that we've had from (State Superintendent of Education) Jack O'Connell indicate that he stands pretty firm on maintaining the high school exit exam this year," she said. "So I'm not anticipating a change from the California State Department of Education's perspective."
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