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State government

California’s high school exit exam is officially a thing of the past

 (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times)
(Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times)

Eighteen years after lawmakers agreed that California high school students should prove their skills on a final exam before earning diplomas, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday to permanently repeal the requirement.

The move comes two years after Brown and lawmakers imposed a three-year suspension of the law, which would have expired next spring. It marks the final chapter of a law that was originally promised to ensure students should be able to prove a series of basic reading and math skills before graduating.

But the exam was suspended in 2015, after state officials said it wasn’t aligned with recently adopted Common Core education standards. The suspension, approved later that year, allowed some 32,000 students who failed to pass the test as far back as 2004 to receive diplomas, as long as they had completed their other coursework.

Education officials told lawmakers this year that new, more thorough assessment tools are now in place and have made the idea of the exit exam obsolete.

“We believe that it accomplished its mission, and now that the state has moved on to new standards with higher standards,” said Keric Ashley, the deputy state superintendent of public instruction, during an Assembly committee hearing in April. “And now the emphasis is to make students college and career ready. And we have an assessment to match that.”

The bill, which again means state-mandated coursework and any local requirements will be sufficient to earn a diploma, faced opposition this year from Republicans who believed the exam should have been revised, not eliminated.

California’s high school exit exam was part of a package of curriculum and testing changes enacted in 1999. It was supposed to fully take effect in 2004, but a high failure rate in some early uses of the test prompted state officials to delay its full roll-out until 2006.

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