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Sunday, June 21, 2009

STATEMENT BY CO-DIRECTORS OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT ON THE CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE'S PROPOSAL TO END THE STATE EXIT EXAMINATION

STATEMENT BY CO-DIRECTORS OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT ON THE
CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE'S PROPOSAL TO END THE STATE EXIT EXAMINATION

We congratulate the Joint Budget Committee on its proposal to end the
state high school exit examination rather than to take further cuts to
California’s schools.20The code of ethics of the testing industry has
long condemned the use of single examinations to make vital decisions
about a student’s life. The American Psychological Association, the
American Educational Research Association, and the National Academy of
Sciences all concur. The basic reason is that there is no single test
that is an adequate measure of a student’s achievements and all tests
are prone to substantial error. Moreover, summary written performance
tests such as the CAHSEE correlate better with students’ socio-
economic status than with their potential to contribute to society or
further their own educations. These tests tend to be easy on students
from privileged backgrounds and excellent schools, but pose very
serious obstacles for students who are poor, not native English
speakers, and attend inferior segregated schools with less qualified
teachers and more limited resources and levels of competition.

In the schools that serve low income and ethnic minority students, too
often the fear of the test and endless drill for the test drive out
richer and more engaging forms of teaching and learning. Claude
Steele, longtime Stanford researcher and the new provost at Columbia
University, has clearly demonstrated that the stress caused by these
kinds of tests often results in lowered performance because of
students’ fear of confirming ugly stereotypes about their ability. For
students who are still learning English, these tests represent a
patently unfair challenge. Given the critical importance of a high
school diploma in today’s harsh economy and the hard decisions
California has to make now about: firing excellent young teachers;
disrupting needed reforms; overcrowding our classrooms; eliminating
essential counseling services, and other critical issues, we think
that the Committee’s decision is a wise one. Spending millions of
dollars for a high stakes test that has shown little value, and
denied high school diplomas and a decent chance for a future to far
too many minority, English language learners and low income students
in California, is not only wasteful; it’s also unethical.

Patricia Gándara and Gary Orfield

Co Directors, Civil rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles

Gandara and Orfield are professors at UCLA and both have been expert
witnesses on the civil rights issues involved in testing. Gandara
teaches a graduate seminar on testing. Orfield is co-editor (with
Professor Mindy Kornhaber of Pennsylvania State University) of the
Project's book on the issue, "Raising Standards or Raising Barriers?:
Inequality and High Stakes Testing in Public Education."

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