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Schools to get exit from testing?

June 18, 2003

Molly Shore

Local high school students who have yet to take the California high

school exit exam will get a reprieve -- for now.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, who sets the

dates of the exam, has canceled next month's administration of the

test and recommended to the state board that students in the classes

of 2004 and 2005 not be required to pass the test to graduate.

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The state board is expected to vote on the recommendation when it

meets July 9 and 10. Approval of the recommendation could save the

state about $1.3 million in costs associated with administering the

exams, said Rick Miller, spokesman for the state department of

education.

"[O'Connell] never would have done this unless he strongly

believed it would happen," Miller said.

In anticipation of the board's vote, O'Connell also announced

Friday that he is canceling the September and November tests, which

focus on reading and math skills.

Burbank Unified School District administrators were not thrilled

about the sudden cancellation.

"I feel it's a mistake," said Alexis Sheehy, the district's

assistant superintendent for instructional services. "We have already

put standards into place."

An independent evaluation by a Virginia company found that the

exam is sound, and provides a good indicator of California public

school standards, said Miller, who acknowledged that the evaluation

also indicated that the classes of 2004 and 2005 have not had enough

time to learn the basics.

If the exams are postponed until 2006, the district will be forced

to cancel classes designed specifically to prepare students for

testing, Sheehy said.

However, she added, postponement of the exams will not stop the

district from providing help to those students who need it.

It sends a mixed message and a wrong message to postpone it,"

Sheehy said. "For the kids in 2006, what guarantee do they have that

it will be implemented in 2006?"

The timing of the cancellation is troubling to Caroline Brumm, the

district's coordinator of student and program evaluation.

"I know the state is involved in very complex decisions about the

budget," Brumm said. "But it seems this [decision] could have been

made sooner."

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