California Lawmakers Craft New High School Exit Exam
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 20, 2006
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA--Thousands of California high school seniors with disabilities would be able to graduate this year without having to pass the California High School Exit Exam under a legislative compromise that the governor has agreed to sign into law.
Senate Bill 517 would require school districts to grant high school diplomas to students with disabilities, who have met all other criteria, if they have failed the English and math test at least twice since 10th grade. The measure would only apply to students scheduled to graduate this year.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who in October vetoed a measure that would have granted an exception for such pupils for the next two years, said in a statement that he would sign this legislation.
Under current law, all students must pass the test in order to receive a high school diploma.
Last August, the non-profit legal firm Disability Rights Advocates and the California Department of Education settled a 2002 class action lawsuit that claimed that the exam unfairly discriminates against students with disabilities.
Under the settlement, the Education Department had agreed to exempt about 25,000 seniors scheduled to graduate in the spring of 2006 from taking the exam. Special education students would have had to attempt the exit exam at least three times and had taken remediation classes if offered by their school district.
The agreement only needed the approval of the governor and the state legislature.
But in September, some lawmakers added a provision that would have extended the exemption to include the graduates of 2007 to give school districts more time to adjust and students more time to prepare for the exam. State education officials and some lawmakers encouraged the governor to veto the measure because it went far beyond the settlement agreement.
After October's veto, some school districts complained that the veto left them in the position of having to violate federal special education law, which requires reasonable accommodations for testing.
Roger Heller, a staff attorney with Disability Rights Advocates, told the Los Angeles Times: "It's really great news. It means that students in special education will not be penalized for [the state] not providing proper materials or qualified teachers."
"Exit Exam Rules Eased" (Los Angeles Times)
"Chapman v. California Department of Education" (Disability Rights Advocates)
"SB 517, Romero High school exit examination: pupils with disabilities" (California Senate)