The attorney general’s office Friday asked the state Supreme Court to reinstate California’s high school exit exam graduation requirement immediately, leaving thousands of students who haven’t passed the test still wondering whether they’ll receive diplomas.
Last week, an Alameda Superior Court judge suspended the exit exam requirement, ruling that some students may have been denied equal access to education and therefore could be harmed if denied a diploma because they failed the exam. Friday’s appeal asks the court to overturn that decision.
The court asked attorneys for the other side to file a response by Monday morning.
“We know that some students at some schools need extra attention to overcome challenges brought to the classroom and challenges within the schools they attend. We agree those students must have every option available to them to learn the skills on the exam. But I strongly disagree that the remedy for students still struggling to pass the exam is to simply hand them a diploma whether or not they have learned what they need to know.
“In an effort to seek resolution of this issue as quickly as possible, I have asked my attorneys to appeal directly to the California Supreme Court. They are working around the clock to prepare those papers, and we expect to file within 24 to 30 hours. This is a remarkably fast turnaround for an appeal of a ruling that was made less than a week ago. While, of course, I am advising all school districts to abide by the lower court’s order until or unless the order is modified by an appellate court, I am hopeful that our appeal to the state Supreme Court will bring quick resolution to this issue.
“We do not want to give up on students who have not mastered the skills they need. Allowing them to graduate without those skills does just that. Nor do we want to lower the standards for our education system that California has worked so hard to maintain.
“I have consistently said that failure to pass the exit exam merely means that their education is not complete and I have laid out more than a half dozen options for these students to continue their schooling. Programs put in place to help students pass the exam have led to steadily increasing passage rates for English learners, low-income students, and ethnic minorities.
“If allowed to stand, the ruling would effectively eliminate a program of remediation that is working for students because of the pressure of a graduation requirement. It is a program that is leading to improved achievement and better opportunities for the very students the plaintiffs are trying to protect.
“In a rapidly changing global economy that demands higher and higher skill levels, this is exactly the wrong message to send to our students. Simply put, this decision was bad for our schools, bad for our kids, bad for our economy, and bad for our future.