Thursday, May 25, 2006
S.C. Reinstates School Exit Exam, Orders C.A. to Consider Merits
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
The California Supreme Court yesterday reinstated the state’s high school exit exam as a graduation requirement for this year’s senior class, leaving 47,000 high school students who failed the test in danger of not graduating.
The high court, which held its weekly conference in San Francisco yesterday, stayed an Alameda Superior Court’s preliminary injunction and issued an order to show cause directing the First District Court of Appeal to consider the merits of the state’s appeal of that order, but with schools ready to hold commencement ceremonies as soon as this weekend, a resolution appeared unlikely before then.
This year’s class was the first in which passing the test of 10th grade English and eighth grade math and algebra was required for graduation.
Students Sued State
A group of students sued the state, claiming the test discriminates against low-income and minority students. On May 12, Alameda Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman invalidated the graduation requirement for 2006 graduates, finding that it discriminates against poor students and those who are learning English.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said he quickly notified school districts that the graduation requirement was back in effect. “In my opinion this brings certainty to the Class of 2006, to those parents, to those in the education community,” he said.
But the lead attorney for the plaintiffs said O’Connell was claiming victory prematurely.
“We intend to seek immediate relief in the court of appeals in San Francisco,” attorney Arturo Gonzalez said. “We are hopeful that oral arguments can be scheduled in time to obtain an order that would allow the Class of 2006 to graduate.”
After Freedman threw out the graduation requirement for this year’s seniors, O’Connell immediately petitioned the Supreme Court, seeking to bar seniors who have not passed the test from graduating with their classmates.
The justices said they were not convinced that Freedman ruled correctly.
“At this juncture this court is not persuaded that the relief granted by the trial court’s preliminary injunction ... would be an appropriate remedy,” five of the seven justices wrote.
Lawyers for the state wrote in their appeal that Freedman’s decision was an illegal intrusion into the lawmaking branch of state government. O’Connell wanted the decision overturned to “further society’s interest in ensuring that students demonstrate minimal academic proficiency in order to receive a high school diploma.”
Remedial Instruction Available
O’Connell said students who fail the test can still get further remedial instruction and take the test again.
Gonzalez told the justices in a filing that the students should not be punished for the education system’s shortcomings.
“As of the start of the current academic year, fewer than half of California high schools had taught all of the course material that is tested on the exam,” Gonzalez wrote.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger quickly praised the high court’s action.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for the children of California and for our future as a state,” the governor said in a statement. “The exit exam ensures that our schools are living up to their responsibility by giving our students the skills and the knowledge they need to succeed in college and in the workplace.”
He added that “we must do everything we can to provide every child with the support they need to pass.” He insisted that “help is on the way,” in the form of additional money.
“My 2006-7 budget will add $7.7 million for three additional administrations of the exam and we will also provide $65 million this year to give students at risk of failing the exam the support they need to pass it.”
In other conference action, the justices agreed to review a Fourth District Court of Appeal, Div. Three ruling requiring a window manufacturer to indemnify a developer who was sued by homeowners. The court held that the manufacturer’s contractual commitment to “defend” claims “growing out” of the manufacturer’s “work” applied, even though the manufacturer was held not to be negligent. The case is Crawford v. Weather Shield Mfg., Inc., G032301.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company