May 17, 2006
Exit exam makes sure that students measure
Passing the California High School Exit Exam was supposed
to verify that graduating seniors were qualified to progress
to next step of their lives.
Now that a judge has set aside those standards, how will
an employer or a college admissions officer know what someone
understands or can process - even with a high school diploma?
Without a legitimate measure of abilities, a diploma's
impact is diminished.
Sooner or later, individuals need to prove what they
know and demonstrate what they can do, which is one
purpose of interviews. Those who learn and are able
to communicate what they know will continue to progress.
The rest will fall further behind - socially, culturally
Bright educators, examination designers and wise administrators
offer conflicting positions on the most effective way
to make sure substantive learning has occurred.
Written examinations pose problems related to the content,
design and fairness. Legitimate concerns about bias issues
make even setting up uniform standards a nightmare for
those responsible for assessing comprehension.
Effective education informs, inspires, prepares, nurtures
and enables individuals. Even with solid building blocks
in basic skills of reading, writing and math, students
must be able to communicate what they know.
If essays or interviews need to be added to the standardized
testing program to accommodate different processing modes,
then include them, immediately.
The "real" world has clear standards for integrity that depend upon
individual accountability and competence.
Standards of excellence do not change simply because
they are demanding.
To keep a job in a pizza restaurant, as an hourly worker,
a new employee must be able to perform certain tasks,
communicate those skills to peers and superiors and pass
certain tests - including effective customer relations.
To operate a forklift and continue to be paid, there
are certain requirements, both physical and mental, that
are non-negotiable. The examples are endless. A high
school diploma must be earned, and it must mean something.
In our increasingly complex and global society, it's
not enough to say that one warmed a chair in high school.
The ability to understand and apply math and science
is not the luxury of the privileged. Likewise, written
and verbal skills, along with interpersonal insights,
will separate those who prosper from those who struggle.
Educational integrity requires that legitimate learning
maintain uncompromising standards that can be tested and