Judge suspends California High School Exit Exam requirement

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Friday, May 12, 2006 As expected, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman today issued a preliminary injunction stopping the state from requiring would-be high school graduates to pass the California High School Exit Exam, but the state superintendent of schools said he would try to overturn Freedman's ruling.

Just before 2 p.m. PDT, Freedman announced his decision in his Oakland courtroom.

On Monday, Freedman announced his tentative decision to stop the state from requiring students to pass the test, but withheld his final decision until today to give lawyers in the case time to make further arguments.

In his statement, Freedman said state school officials "are enjoined and restrained from denying any high school senior who is a member of a 2006 graduating class and who is otherwise eligible to graduate and receive a diploma from participating in graduation exercises and receipt of such diploma solely on the ground that such student has not passed all parts" of the exam.

The ruling effects 47,000 seniors statewide, about 11 percent of the class of 2006, who have yet to pass both the English and math sections of the exam.

At James Logan High School, about 70 students are effected.

In the case, Valenzuela vs. O'Connell, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that their clients were denied equal opportunity to pass the test, as they are not offered equal educational opportunities in California schools because of their non-English primary language backgrounds or their low economic status. The students represented face not graduating despite meeting all requirements for graduation except passage of the test,

Freedman agreed, at least in part. In his decision, he said: "There is evidence in the record that shows that students in economically challenged communities have not had an equal opportunity to learn the materials tested on the (California High School Exit Examination)."

Originally, the case involved 10 students and their families, but since its filing in February, four of the students have passed the test, leaving six students as parties to the case.

"I’m greatly disappointed in today’s court decision to halt the California High School Exit Exam as a graduation requirement for the Class of 2006," said State Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell. "This is not only a great disappointment to me, it is a setback for students and hard-fought school accountability in the state of California."

"The preliminary injunction against California’s Exit Exam denies the vast majority of students in the Class of 2006 the opportunity to graduate with diplomas that certify mastery of essential skills in reading and math," he said.

"We will continue to fight the case," said O'Connell, "I have directed our attorneys to immediately appeal this ruling, and to seek a stay of the judge’s order."

O'Connell wrote the law requiring the test as a state legislator in 1999.

"I applaud Superintendent O'Connell for his decision to appeal the ruling issued today delaying the California High School Exit Exam graduation requirement," said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. "He has my full support in his efforts to secure the exam's implementation this year. I stand behind the exit exam because it is our best resource for ensuring that schools are giving our children the knowledge and the skills they need to begin successful lives."

Sources

Patrick Hannigan. "Judge suspends California High School Exit Exam requirement" — The James Logan Courier, May 12, 2006

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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.