College & Workforce Readiness

Exit Exam News From Pennsylvania and California

By Catherine Gewertz — July 10, 2009 1 min read

An update on the tussle over high school graduation exams in Pennsylvania: The chairman of the state board of education there announced a proposal that would phase in end-of-course tests starting next year.

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, the state Senate had lashed back at Gov. Edward Rendell and the state department of education by barring development of the proposed Keystone Exams. With the governor’s blessing, the education department had signed a contract in May to have the end-of-course tests designed, angering lawmakers, who saw it as a violation of a moratorium they had passed last year. To calm the kerfuffle, the Rendell administration shelved plans to develop the tests.

Now comes news that state board of ed chair Joe Torsella has negotiated a compromise that would allow the tests to be developed and to count for one-third of a student’s course grade. The new Keystone Exams would replace the state tests given to 11th graders. School districts would not be obliged, however, to use them as a graduation requirement, as originally proposed. The board is to consider this compromise at its August meeting.

And in California, which has been teetering on the edge of axing its exit exam for financial reasons, new support has emerged for the tests. Early results show more students passing the test, especially English-language learners and special education students, according to this story in The San Francisco Chronicle. That prompted the state board of education to get on board in support of the tests, which are a graduation requirement there. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell have been fighting the proposed elimination of the exams.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School Connections blog.