The Controversy Over the High School Exit Exam

We have all heard of the controversy in regards to the High School Exit Exam. In California, we have what is called the CAHSEE. Basically, it is a standardized test that our students must pass in order to receive their high school diploma. This year, a waiver was signed allowing students in Special Education to receive their diploma without having to pass the CAHSEE as long as they met the other requirements such as their number of units completed. Next year, however, it is a real possibility that they too will have to pass the CAHSEE in order to receive their diploma.

To be honest, I am not sure how I feel about this. I am not sure that I like the idea of any student having to pass this exam, no matter if they are in Special Education or not. As a teacher as well as a parent, I know that not all students test well. There are so many factors that must be considered. These factors include whether or not they ate breakfast or got enough sleep. I teach at a real underprivileged and at risk school and my students have even more to worry about. Their concerns include whether or not their dad beat them the night before or whether he was too drunk to care. It is sad but true. Many of today’s students have so much more to worry about than we did in years past.

Even if a child has a great home life, the fact remains that not all kids test well. Many kids learn by doing and standardized tests do not take this into account. Does this mean that they do not know the information? Does it mean that they did not learn what they needed to learn? I am not convinced that it does.

As a teacher, I have a much deeper understanding of what my students are capable of and what they have learned. I am the one in class with them on a daily basis. I know their stories, their struggles, and their capabilities. As a professional, I know the grade-level standards and whether or not my students met those standards. Yes, I think our students need to be held accountable. I am just not sure the High School Exit Exam is the best way to determine if a student knows what they need to know in order to receive a diploma. Maybe, just maybe, there is a better way.

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About Shannon Stepp

My name is Shannon Stepp. I am a 34 year old high school teacher. I have been married for almost 14 years and have three children ages 12, 11, and 8. I spent two years homeschooling them and then decided to let them return to private school. My hobbies include writing, reading, and spending time with my family. Keeping up with them can be a full-time job! I enjoy teaching and really love working with high schoolers. They teach me as much as I teach them!