How Do You Know Which Math Sat Level You Took Why the CAHSEE is Bad For Public Education

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Why the CAHSEE is Bad For Public Education

After a heated statewide debate, the California Department of Education (CDE) implemented the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) as a graduation requirement for all students in public high school The law first went into effect with the graduating class of 2006 and has been used as a hard graduation requirement for every class since then. Although there are many different opinions about the CAHSEE, one thing is clear, it seems that it is here to stay.

The purpose of the CAHSEE is to provide a standard way to measure student achievement in public high schools across the state. Since the CAHSEE is essentially a test of state academic content standards, and theoretically all public schools across the state should be teaching based on state content standards, the CAHSEE should be a good way to measure students of one school with those of other schools. All of this logic seems plausible until you start to look at the impact that testing has on public education, especially in traditionally low-performing schools.

Because CAHSEE scores affect everything from school funding to the job security of teachers and administrators, it’s easy to see why it has had such a profound impact on how schools operate. Teachers and counselors now place a heavy emphasis on preparing students for the CAHSEE, often at the expense of time that could be spent preparing students to excel in college and beyond. The CAHSEE only tests state standards for grades 6-10, so the vast majority of material covered on the exam is at the high school level. Now, of course, it’s important to have a solid foundation in the fundamentals of math and English, but not all high school students need the level of revision they’re being given. For many students, the entire review process is unnecessary and robs them of valuable time that could be spent doing work that will actually prepare them for college.

This is especially the case for students in low-performing schools. Because many of their peers struggle with these foundational areas, the whole class should spend time reviewing this material. Not only are these students at a disadvantage for attending a low-performing high school in the first place, but the problem is now compounded by the fact that the administration is, in effect, allowing their peers to make their progress even more difficult. This creates the common problem that even the best students in poor schools are not prepared to achieve at the highest level in college and beyond. Does the CAHSEE really benefit our education system when it inadvertently stifles the development of some of our brightest minds?

While California’s high school exit exam certainly has its supporters quick to cite its positive benefits, overall, and especially for students in low-performing schools, it harms education This point is underscored by the fact that even the best students from low-performing schools often struggle when placed in more challenging and competitive academic environments. While eliminating the CAHSEE will not necessarily solve this problem on its own, it would certainly be a step in the right direction.

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