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Exit Exam Protest Set for Capitol

Tuesday July 08, 2003

Hundreds of students, teachers, parents and education advocates will converge on Sacramento on Wednesday to pressure the state board of education to hold off on administering the high school exit exam, which they say unfairly punishes students who do not have access to quality education. 

The exit exam requirement was established as part of Gov. Gray Davis’s education reform package. It requires that high school graduates—beginning with the class of 2004— pass the exam in order to receive a diploma. But many of the 172,000 students who have been given multiple chances to pass the exam since 2001 have still not passed. Students from minority and low-income communities have traditionally been less likely to pass the exam than other groups. 

In response to concerns about the level of student preparedness, Jack O’Connell, Superintendent of Public Instruction, wrote a letter last month urging the board to vote for a two-year delay of the test. The board is expected to approve the delay, but critics say the board should vote to hold off on the adminstration of the test indefinitely until quality education is assured for all of the state’s students. Activists with the Campaign for Quality Education, a statewide coalition of education and civil rights groups calling for education reform, will participate in rallies, testify before the board, and meet with state legislators to make their case. 

“What we really want is for the state to delay the exit exam until they can ensure that every student has the opportunity to learn,” said Mike Chaves, spokesperson with Californians for Justice, a community-based group that advocates for low-income and minority students. “The first focus should be on addressing those schools that are providing a substandard education and fixing the real problems in schools and to make sure that students have a fair opportunity to learn.” 

The rally, which will include a speech by Assemblymember Loni Hancock, will begin at 10 a.m. in front of the State Education Building on the corner of 15th and N streets in Sacramento. The board is expected to discuss the exit exam issue at around 10:30 a.m.