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We have lots of AP testing, but little education

Exit Exam Protesters Urge Governor to Sign Bill
Voice of San Diego
Will Carless
2005

Students, teachers, parents and activists gathered Thursday outside Gov.
Schwarzenegger's office on Front Street in downtown San Diego to protest the
California High School Exit Exam and to urge him to sign Assembly Bill 1531.

The bill, according to Californians For Justice, would allow school districts to form
their own, more detailed systems of assessment to decide whether students have
earned their diploma.

Chanting slogans and waving hand-painted banners, the group sought to bring
attention to a cause they feel highlights the social and linguistic injustice of the
county's school system.

They presented a petition signed by 1,097 students and educators that urges
Schwarzenegger to sign Assembly Bill 1531.

Representatives of the NAACP and Californians For Justice, a statewide,
grassroots organization that champions community causes, outlined their goals in
passionate speeches.

Currently, students must pass the exit exam to get a diploma, and activists
demonstrating Thursday said that test is grossly unfair to Latino and other minority
students.

"The exit exam is culturally and linguistically biased," said Mshinda Nyofu, the
parent of a fourth-grader who is enrolled in a San Diego City School.

Referring to a recent court decision known as the Williams Case -- a class-action
lawsuit filed in San Francisco in 2000 that Nyofu said proved that local schools
offer sub-standard education -- Nyofu explained why he thinks the exit exam is
biased.

"If you have all of that (poor education) in one scenario, and then you're
mandating a high-stakes test for students to pass, who have not been adequately
taught," said Nyofu, "who have not had highly qualified teachers, who have not
had the resources and textbooks that they need, then it's go-for-broke if they pass
or if they fail."

As an alternative to the exit exam, supporters of Assembly Bill 1531 argue for an
approach to assessment known as "multiple assessment."

That would allow schools to assess outgoing students based not on their linguistic
ability or their ability to pass an exit exam, but by a range of criteria.

"Our children are not robots," said San Diego School Board Member Sheila
Jackson. "Therefore, we need to be able to assess them in the best way possible,
and evaluate their productivity in the best way possible. That might not be a test
on a certain day."

Then again, it might be.

Many educators argue in favor of the exit exams, saying that they are the only
means of assessment that are truly fair to all students.

San Diego School Board Member Mitz Lee said she supports the exit exam for a
number of reasons. She said the exams San Diego has now actually favor
students of color and are beneficial to black, Latino and Asian students.

"Personally, I think [the exit exams] are helping because it means that at least
students have to have the basics in reading and math," said Lee. "I think it's very
critical, and it's more critical for children of color for whom the system consistently
has a low expectation. It makes them accountable."

Lee argued that the exam has only been mandatory for a short period of time, and
said that changing tactics now would make the school board look "like we don't
mean business."

For Jackson, that's an over-simplification. She illustrated the problem as she sees
it using the analogy of a child learning to walk. It's a lesson she teaches her
fourth-grade class.

"The first time you tried you didn't walk. You stood up, you fell down, you bust your
lip, you cried a little bit," she said. "But you kept getting up until you could walk.
Everyone didn't start to walk at the same time."

In the same way, she said, each student should be assessed according to his or
her strengths rather than by a mandated assessment test that only covers one
part of the spectrum of a child's learning.

The message of the students gathered outside Schwarzenegger's office was clear.
They feel the system as it is presents an unfair and biased challenge to students
from ethnic minorities.

That's something they planned to tell the whole world about if they could, but on
Thursday afternoon they settled for rush hour on Front Street.
Federal hammer to fall on schools?
By Linda Shaw
Seattle Times
August 26, 2005

When schools fall short of federal test-score goals for five years — as a few
Washington schools probably will this year — the most severe sanctions under
the No Child Left Behind law are supposed to begin.

No longer can principals change their curriculum or hire outside help such as
reading coaches. Instead, the law requires districts to start planning one of five
get-tough options, such as shutting a school down, reopening it as a charter, or
turning control over to an outside group...


Fordham study

But closing a school or replacing its staff doesn't guarantee success.
The track record for state takeovers and replacing a school's staff has been
mixed.

A 2003 study sponsored by the Fordham Foundation looked at two dozen
states that intervened in schools from 1989 to 2003 and concluded no
one strategy had a success rate higher than 50 percent.

States and districts continue to try both, however. Chicago, for example,
announced last year that it would close 50-60 schools, and open 100 new ones
in their place...