Last week, sophomores (and some upperclassmen) across the state of California took the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). According to the California Department of Education website, the test was created to “improve student achievement in high schools” and “ensure that students graduate from high school with grade level skills in reading, writing, and math.” It is a prerequisite to graduating from high school with a diploma.
The general consensus among sophomores is that the test was quite straightforward. In fact, for many, it was overly easy. The test was meant to test a student’s grade-level skills, yet it seems to test skills from much earlier. According to Mesa student Eric Vu, one of the questions in this year’s math section was “if x = 3, then what is negative x?” Variables and negative numbers are both taught early in middle school.
A test such as this can in no way test a student’s readiness to graduate from high school. How can it, when it assesses a student’s knowledge of middle school standards, and only requires a 55% score to pass the math portion and 60% on English? Anyone who has learned even the bare basics of high school level knowledge can pass the test; and for those who do not pass it the first time around, they likely are not performing well in school.
The CAHSEE is only an example of low standards of high schools in general. Though I cannot speak for other schools, Mesa seems to be very accommodating to its students, perhaps even overly so. As a student who is enrolled in three Advanced Placement classes, I can honestly say that I am rarely assigned more than two to three hours of work on any given day. As a freshman, I rarely even had to do any schoolwork outside of the school day. For many of the school’s classes, much of a student’s grade is based on participation and homework, neither of which require more than a little effort on the part of the students. And for those who fail multiple classes during their high school career, the school even provides credit recovery courses to allow them to graduate.
A true education is meant to challenge students to learn, not to spoon-feed them basic knowledge from years past. The CAHSEE is a test that serves only to reinforce the idea that very little is expected of high school students. If California wants to challenge its students to do well in school and in life, it should design a system of much higher standards that gives graduation much more significance. Passing middle school test should not be an official prerequisite for graduating from high school.