By IONA BATCHELDER
Every year, one week of University High School (UHS) is disrupted for all grades as the sophomores take the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). This test is intended to be administered to high school seniors as a way of showing that they have the skills to exit high school.
UHS administers these tests to sophomores for a few reasons. Firstly, if someone fails the test, they have two more opportunities to pass it because they cannot graduate high school without passing this test. But more importantly, they administer these tests to sophomores because the skills tested are literally sophomoric: they are 10th grade, and lower, level skills. Officially, the math section has 90 questions from the 6th to 8th grade level, while the English section is at a 10th grade level.
The CAHSEE is supposed to be a test that reasonably assesses high school students’ skill sets. However, since it is administered to all California high schools, it does not truly assess all high school students’ skills. For UHS students, the CAHSEE tests represent a wasted week of school, with weird schedules and lost class time. Elle Findlay (So.) said, “I finished both days of the test in under an hour and spent the remainder of the time doing nothing since I was not allowed to do homework. I would’ve gladly left, but we had to remain in the room for the entire block of time.”
While the majority of UHS students probably agree with Findlay, students from schools in lower-income areas, such as Santa Ana and neighborhoods of Los Angeles, actually fail the test (sometimes multiple times), and the test can jeopardize their chances of graduating from high school.
The test is an exit exam for all California high schools. By that logic, there should be a general pool throughout the state, regardless of the school or location, of students who pass the test easily, struggle with it or must take remedial classes to pass it, but as I have mentioned earlier, that is not the case. This in itself is flawed.
But what is even more flawed is that future school funding and even job securities are tied to the results of this test. Thus, in some cases, schools in poor neighborhoods are stuck in a rut where their students do poorly on the CAHSEE due to less than ideal school environments. State funders see the results of the exams and then give less money to the schools where students did not do so well on the exams. Thus, the schools cannot teach the proper standards to students.
Another problem with the test is that it is administered to all students – even those who may have just arrived in America from another country. Their English knowledge is rudimentary in some cases, and, of course, they cannot pass the test given such short notice. They are forced to go through much unnecessary suffering when the test is forced upon them.
The CAHSEE is not only unnecessary but a waste of time in its current form, especially since California is such a large state with so many different socioeconomic situations. It is just not practical to administer one statewide test. If California wants to administer an exit exam, it should have different versions based on different locations. One thing is clear, however: funding for schools should not be tied to CAHSEE scores.