The Sacramento Bee reports this week that Jerry Brown has granted a final exam “reprieve” to high school students who faced an uncertain outcome of their senior year thanks to California’s incompetent government. But in so doing, what kind of future has the state given them, or the colleges they may attend, or the jobs they may seek?
From the Bee:
Thousands of students left in limbo by the cancellation of California’s required high school exit exam will be able to graduate after all.
On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 725, suspending the test for the class of 2015 and allowing students who’ve fulfilled all other graduation requirements to receive their diplomas. About 5,000 high school seniors were blocked from graduating this year when the California Department of Education canceled a final administration of the exit exam in July because its contract with the provider had expired.
To be fair to Brown, this was arguably necessary because the California Department of Education’s contract with its exam provider expired in July and apparently, it hasn’t been renewed (meaning that students couldn’t actually take the exam, whether they were willing and capable or not). A student might have been in the position of having been accepted to college yet unable to attend because they would not be graduated, certainly an unjust situation. So like most government incompetence problems, people are getting a raw deal no matter what happens.
The truth is, this is still news that people should be paying attention to, because the probability is that Brown just effectively declared a bunch of California kids to be “college-ready” or at least “work-ready” – since that’s what high school diplomas are commonly understood to signify – even though a host of external indicators suggest there’s no way that the vast majority of those now “graduated” are either of those things; in fact no one has any way of knowing whether the kids now “graduated” could even have passed the high school exit exam.
Last year, the AP reported that “Fewer than 4 in 10 California high school students are completing the requirements to be eligible for the state’s public universities […] At the current rate, educators and policy experts say, far too few students are finishing high school with the minimum coursework needed even to apply to a University of California or California State University campus […] For the class of 2012, it was 38 percent.”
In other words, long before Brown simply declared a bunch of untested seniors as graduated, California already had a big problem with graduating students who weren’t anywhere close to “college-ready” or “work-ready.”
This point is further backed up by data cited in this paper from 2010 (when Brown was elected), which notes that (emphasis added):
“The California State University (CSU), a large public university system, for many years has applied placement or readiness standards in reading, writing, and mathematics that are linked to first-year college coursework. All first-time students at all 23 CSU campuses must meet these standards, principally through performance on a common statewide placement examination. Despite systemwide admissions policy that requires a college-preparatory curriculum and a grade point average in high school of B or higher, 68% of the 50,000 entering freshmen at CSU campuses require remediation in English language arts, or math, or both. Should the same standards be applied by the California Community Colleges with their open admissions policies, their remediation rates would exceed 80%.”
Public education has many problems in general, and RedStaters are more than familiar with them. From Common Core to progressive revisionism to political correctness, schools in America face a wealth of problems. California even more so. But what Gov. Brown has done has only exacerbated a problem that has long been evident in the Not-So-Golden State: the “education” taking place there, for many students, isn’t really an education at all. And teacher’ unions and their allies continue to oppose state and federal-level reforms that could change that situation and improve education for students, who are, you know, the actual people who are supposed to benefit from the education system.
And now, even with all those failings, California isn’t even holding students to the state’s own poor standards. That’s not just a mark of bad governance, it’s a disservice to the students who needed at the very least some way to confirm their qualification for attendance in higher education, or even that they’ve achieved what goals and standards the state has for graduation.
This is what you are getting in California right now. Either qualified students are screwed out of starting college, or unqualified students are thrust to the next stage, for which they are ill-prepared.
People concerned about improving education in the US should be looking at this news, and California’s track record, when thinking about what education policy should look like. And they should quit listening to entities like the NEA.