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Parent Voices on the High School Exit Exam

New America Media, Posted: Jul 06, 2009

Editors Note: The Legislature proposes to suspend the California High School Exit Exam for four years, an idea prompted by the states budget crisis and deep cuts to school funding. Parents with children in public schools give their views on the idea. Interviews were conducted by phone and email by NAM contributor Justine Drennan.

Pam Brady, president of Californias Parent Teacher Association. She lives in Malibu and has three children.

The state legislature has spent years and years worrying about accountability, and now theyre making decisions based on minimum standards, not based on high standards. Thats not the way you make good education decisions. They should not be based on the economy. Its really not okay to say were in a low economy - therefore lets lower our standards. Its shortchanging the kids and its shortchanging the state. Who is going to be the workforce? That is going to be the children.

Carl Barnes, a firefighter and father of four in San Francisco, where he was raised and attended public schools. His two youngest children currently attend public schools in San Francisco.

There needs to be some type of indicator of what has been done for children throughout their junior high and high school years. I know its an issue around money, but my wife works for City College, and I know that [students] have to take a placement test for junior college. Theres a Muslim school that has an arrangement with City College that allows [students] to take the placement test while in high school as practice, and a lot of them are doing very well. Its almost like if you take away the exit exam, how do you replace it? It leaves the door open for teachers to feel like theres no accountability.

Dan Dykwel, president of the Palo Alto Council of PTAs, who has a son in college.

The exit exam isnt really an issue in Palo Alto. Im pretty sure everyone here passes.

Angelina Rojas, a mother of four, a social worker at Manzanita Elementary School in Oakland, and a member of the Parent Leadership Action Network in Oakland. Her youngest child will enter Skyline High School in Oakland in the fall.

I think its a good idea that theres going to be an exit exam suspension because the students that dont know the languagehave less knowledge about the exam than the rest of the students. Im thinking if they have the exit exam, maybe for immigrants they should do a different one.

Loretta Seva'aetasi, an administrative analyst specialist at San Francisco State University and mother of four children who have all attended public school in San Francisco. Three of them passed the exit exam on the first try and graduated high school. Her youngest daughter is still in school.

My feelings on [the exit exam] were strong in the beginning because I feel that the powers that be think that testing is what it is all about. We need to address issues in classrooms and the varying levels of understanding that exist in every classroom. I think [suspending the exam] is a good idea because tests are not the do- all, die-all, and it doesn't take into consideration that some kids are just not good at taking tests. Also, this exam is at an eighth grade level, and if many students are not passing, what measures is the state going to take to remedy that? More tests?

Kido, an individual child advocate who deals with equity and diversity issues and a member of the Parent Leadership Action Network in Oakland. She is a single parent of two special needs children who attended public schools in Oakland and Berkeley.

Its a good idea to get rid of it. My 17 year-old graduated last year, and both my kids passed the first time around, but the whole school system has been centered around passing this test. Its made a huge change in how people are trained in school, so I dont believe that those who are actually ready to go on to higher levels of education are prepared. CAHSEE doesnt support students being ready for college. Theyre just prepared for the test. Classrooms are run specifically to make sure people can pass the test. After they have the information, theyre ready to add new information, but there isnt any progression.

Read NAM's complete coverage of the California High School Exit Exam here.

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