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Student Voices on the High School Exam

New America Media, Posted: Jul 06, 2009

Editors Note: Whether they thought the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) was easy or if it is preventing them from getting their high school diploma, these young contributors agreed that the exam should be postponed forever. The contributors are interns with New America Medias youth programs YO!, Youth Outlook Multimedia, and The Beat Within.


Chris Tamaru, 18

To be honest, I took the CAHSEE a good five times it was the math section that was hard for me to pass. The English part was easy for me it felt like it was testing me on things I had learned in 7th and 8th grade.

When I did finally pass the exit exam, I was in Juvenile Hall. I actually studied this time since I didnt have anything else to do with my time. Before that, I just bubbled in whatever to make shapes or letters on the math part because I didnt know the algebra, but with a little effort the test is not hard to pass at all.

I dont think the test is a good measure of what you have learned in high school and shouldnt have anything to do with whether you can graduate or not. It definitely seems like a waste of money when they could be spending that cash on trying to get people to actually learn things.


Will Hawk, 16

I think the CAHSEE tests have nothing to do with a good education. As someone who has taken them, I would have to say that they are incredibly easy, and also representative of a larger problem in the education system. The lack of funding and broken attitude of the United States school system has left us so far behind in the world standing that it has become an embarrassment. California, especially, has been far behind in state standings (46 of 50), which is perhaps the reason for the suspiciously easy test that the state offers. In middle school, we trained tirelessly towards tests such as these, often glazing over curriculum so that we would know it for the test next week but forget it the week after. The reason is unclear in particular, but it is certain that public schools are unprepared to actually educate students for the future beyond the Spring testing. But luckily, there is an alternative.

Both high schools I have attended (the first closed down at the end of my 9th grade year), have been charter schools, meaning that they are funded by government money, take government tests, but are not subject to government curriculum. Though there is perhaps some light cramming ordained by our teachers on the last week or so before a big state test, it has never been a goal of our teachers to teach to the states exams. Because we dont adhere to the state standards, we can focus on alternative subjects and teaching strategies. We do reports on the problems caused by globalization and use computer architecture programs to design a green friendly house that could fit into a standard San Franciscan lot. I think students can learn a lot more through projects and classes like these than in an unchallenging standardized test aimed at 8th graders.


Monica Carlos, 23

It has been five months since I took the last CAHSEE math test. For the fifth time. Yes, I took the test five times. I will probably take it again if I have to. I have all my high school credits and passed the English portion of the CAHSEE, but I cannot receive my high school diploma until I pass the math part.

I feel like this test is a waste of my time. I went through school without ever really learning math, yet still passing these classes. I remember my math teacher in junior high. He would always give us the answers, so I never learned. Then when I went to high school, I was put in the dumb classes that didnt even teach the math that is on the CAHSEE.

I know how to add, subtract, divide, and multiply. I know how to count money and I think thats all that matters to me when it comes to math. Im 23, have a son and have to take care of my family and my math skills are fine when it comes to balancing my checkbook and doing the weekly shopping. Because of the exit exam, I cant put on my resume that I have a diploma, which prevents me from getting a good job. I feel like I should be given my high school diploma. I worked for my credits but this stupid exam wont let me get that paper.

Now, that I found out that they might be banning the exit exam for the next four years, I think thats a great idea. I dont know if this means I can get my diploma, but I sure hope so. I hope they do get rid of it for the young kids that are going to school today and struggling with this test. Just because you cannot pass a test does not make you stupid. Right now, I think the exit exams are just holding people back from achieving their dreams.


Jeanette Lau, 15

I attend Carlmont High School and will be a junior next year. I took the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) this year to see whether or not I was eligible to graduate from high school. It was definitely an insignificant test, and unlike the STAR test hype afterward, much more relaxed and carefree. The test was simple, straight to the point, and fast to finish.

I remember 45 minutes or so into the test, nearly everyone was done with the assigned section except for one student. As we headed out of the class where we took the CAHSEE to fourth period, I heard people whisper, Why did she take so long? We could have had a longer break if she finished more quickly. I chose not to say anything. For people with average intelligence or higher, the CAHSEE would obviously be simple and quickly finished. I thus led to the conclusion that the girl was perhaps mentally challenged of some sort.

As I finished the math part of the CAHSEE, I was introduced to a final set of questions asking my opinion on how hard it was. One of the questions asked, What did you use to study for the CAHSEE? I stared at the question, slightly confused. No one studies for the CAHSEE, I thought, filling in one of the bubbles. Later, during lunch, as my friends and I discussed the CAHSEEs difficulty level, we unanimously agreed that the test was completely unnecessary a waste of time, money, and resources. You dont need the CAHSEE to prove that you can get out of high school, says one of my friends. Youve got classes, SATs, and STAR tests and whatnot for that.

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







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