Capitol Alert

Senate sends high school exit exam suspension to Jerry Brown

10th grade students at New Technology High School prepare for the California High School Exit Exam during winter break in  2006.
10th grade students at New Technology High School prepare for the California High School Exit Exam during winter break in 2006. Sacramento Bee file

Thousands of students who failed the California High School Exit Exam over the past decade may finally be able to graduate under a bill now awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

The state Senate on Thursday approved Senate Bill 172, which would suspend the exit exam through the 2017-18 school year and retroactively since 2003-04, allowing students who completed all other graduation requirements to receive their diplomas.

With a contract for a provider recently expired, lawmakers had already planned to suspend the exit exam for the next three years to come up with a replacement more aligned with new Common Core curriculum standards. But after a test cancellation this summer stranded about 5,000 graduation-eligible high school seniors without a final opportunity to pass the exam, Brown requested that the requirement be suspended retroactively as well, according to Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, who authored SB 172.

The bill passed 23-14, over some Republican objections it would remove accountability and devalue the California high school degree, especially for students who had passed the exit exam. According to an Assembly floor analysis, the pass rate reached 97.2 percent for the class of 2014.

In an interview, Liu countered that it was an issue of fairness for students still working to complete the exam requirement, who would have to wait at least three more years for another shot and could face entirely different standards by then.

“If there’s any indication from this last year, you’ve got a lot of kids who could be affected,” she said.

Among the other legislation that advanced to the governor’s desk on Thursday was:

▪ Senate Bill 792, by Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, which would require flu, whooping cough and measles immunizations for all day care workers and volunteers.

▪ Senate Bill 21, by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, which would require nonprofit organizations that organize trips for elected officials to disclose their donors, and require lawmakers to disclose where they traveled on any gift trips.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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