A bill signed last week by Gov. Jerry Brown lets tens of thousands of California students graduate even though they never passed the state’s high school exit exam.
The state has no clear fix yet on the precise number of students affected. But news media reports put the figure around 32,000.
About 5,000 students were unable to graduate last year because the state decided to suspend the testing contract, depriving seniors who hadn’t yet passed the test of their last opportunity to take it.
Lawmakers passed emergency legislation allowing seniors in the class of 2015 to earn diplomas without the exam since the state had caused the problem.
Days after that bill was signed, lawmakers amended a related measure to significantly expand its reach. The new measure requires districts and the state to grant a diploma to any student who completed grade 12 in the 2003-04 school year or later and has met all applicable graduation requirements other than passing the exit exam—until July 31, 2018.
Georgia and South Carolina have made similar moves, enacting laws that award diplomas retroactively to students who didn’t pass their exit exams.
Robert Oakes, a spokesman for California Sen. Carol Liu, the bill’s sponsor, said she made the legislation retroactive because her office received calls from districts that had been getting inquiries from students who had failed—or never taken—the exam years ago.
“If someone met all the requirements for a diploma [except the exit exam], and up to 11 years later, says, ‘I want to take the next step in my life, join the military, get a professional certification, go to college; I want to pass the exit exam,’ but it doesn’t exist anymore, why should you prevent someone who wants to succeed from doing that?” Oakes said. “For Carol, it was a matter of fairness. She wants people to succeed.”
A version of this article appeared in the October 14, 2015 edition of Education Week as California Dismisses Exit Exam for Students Back to 2003-04