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Exit Exam Legislation Goes Beyond Settlement Agreement
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 14, 2005

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA--Advocates for students with disabilities in California are worried that legislation passed last week could put at risk an agreement to settle a class-action lawsuit over the state's high school exit exam.

Late last month, the non-profit legal firm Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) and the California Department of Education announced that they had agreed to settle a 2001 lawsuit which claimed that the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) unfairly discriminates against students with disabilities. Currently, all seniors are required to pass the six-hour math and English test in order to graduate.

Under the settlement, the Education Department agreed to exempt about 25,000 seniors scheduled to graduate in the spring of 2006 from taking the exam. Special education students would have to show they had attempted the exit exam at least three times and had taken remediation classes if offered by their school district.

The agreement only needed approval from the Legislature and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Last Thursday, however, the Legislature passed a measure that would extend the exemption to include the graduates of 2007, in order to give school districts more time to adjust and students more time to prepare for the exam. Senate Bill 586 also would not require students to take remediation classes as had been agreed to under the settlement.

While it would appear on the surface to be good news for the students, state education officials and some lawmakers are encouraging the governor to veto the measure because it goes far beyond the settlement.

"I don't think we would recommend that the governor sign the bill in this form," Schwarzenegger's deputy secretary for education Scott Himelstein told the Sacramento Bee.

DRA attorney Stephen Tollafield said: "It's not exactly what we agreed to. However at this point, we agree that passing this legislative solution is better than the alternative, which is going to court."

Disability Rights Advocates also sued the states of Oregon and Alaska over their use of standardized tests as a graduation requirement. Those cases have since been settled.

Related:
"Assembly passes exit exam measure" (Associated Press via Contra Costa Times)

http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/state/12599896.htm
"Bill to delay exit exam for some students faulted" (Sacramento Bee)
http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/story/13549466p-14390157c.html

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