Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown to sign bill to suspend California high school exit exam for 2015

Tenth-graders at New Technology High School prepare for the state’s exit exam in January 2006.
Tenth-graders at New Technology High School prepare for the state’s exit exam in January 2006. Sacramento Bee file

Gov. Jerry Brown will sign legislation to give a reprieve to thousands of California students who were blocked from graduating high school this year when the state canceled its required exit exam.

“Students who have been accepted into college should not be prevented from starting class this fall because of a test cancellation they could not control,” Deborah Hoffman, Brown’s deputy press secretary, said Monday. “The governor will sign this bill to ensure these students begin their college careers.”

Lawmakers earlier Monday sent Brown Senate Bill 725, which suspends the test for the class of 2015, allowing students who fulfilled all other graduation requirements to receive their diplomas. About 5,000 high school seniors were left in limbo in July when the California Department of Education canceled the year’s final administration of the exam because its contract with the provider had expired.

That raised alarm that students would be prevented from enrolling in college or the military, and led to the quick-fix legislation. The University of California and the California State University later announced that they would not deny entry to admitted students affected by the exam cancellation.

Lawmakers and education officials are discussing replacements for the test better aligned with new Common Core standards for math and English, including the possibility that it could be scrapped altogether. Another proposal from Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, to suspend the exam requirement through the 2017-18 school year, Senate Bill 172, is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The Senate passed SB 725 by a 37-0 vote on Monday, sending the bill to the governor’s desk.

“We want to support our young people in moving forward with their lives,” said Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, the measure’s author. “This is what government does when it works well: We find a problem, we fix a problem, we do it in a bipartisan way.”

But some Republican lawmakers raised concerns that no one was being held accountable for the bureaucratic failure.

“What is being done to investigate the cause and to cause punishment for those who were the perpetrators?” said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber. “Those individuals need to be known by name to all of us.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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