PRO/CON: Should We See the Cahsee Again?

November 18, 2015

Should the CAHSEE be necessary? Vote below!


The California High School Exit Exam, a test that has often been considered a joke in the highly educated community of Diamond Bar, will be suspended until a replacement exam is created that fits Common Core standards. While this suspension won’t mean a lot for students at DBHS, it will have a detrimental impact on the future of many students in California.

As easy as the CAHSEE may be to some students, not every test taker passes the test. Last year, about 25 percent of the sophomores failed, meaning they would have had to retake the exam in their junior or senior years. By law, students failing this test are eligible to receive “intensive instruction and services designed to pass the CAHSEE.”

However, now that the CAHSEE is suspended, the future of our “golden state” may be in jeopardy. The CAHSEE was implemented to ensure that high school graduates knew the basics of reading, writing, and math before living independently in the real world. Without the CAHSEE, we’d be allowing students who struggle at reading or solving a simple math equation to graduate—and we’d have no way to find out who these students are.

Let’s be honest: Meeting graduation requirements doesn’t guarantee that a student has an understanding of basic academic skills, and not all teachers successfully prepare their students. Any student could have easily copied work from their classmates and received a passing grade in the class. With the CAHSEE, school administrators would be aware of students in need of help and provide them with remedial classes to help them catch up on the basics. Now that there is no test to verify the level of each student, those falling behind in school will graduate without having a basic standard of knowledge.

Some may say that it’s unfair for students to be unable to graduate because they failed to pass a test. However, the CAHSEE allows students to retake it every year until they can pass. In addition, the test is very straightforward. The test asks simple literacy and math questions to check that the student has enough knowledge to graduate high school.

Without any high school exit exam, there is no way to determine if a student can truly be considered a high school graduate. Education is the key to living a successful life and California should emphasize it more. As much as students at DBHS moan about having to take such a “useless test” as the CAHSEE, the exam is critical in determining who is ready to go out there and face the challenges of the real world.


If a line passes through the points (0, 3) and (3, 7), approximately where does the line cross the x-axis? The answer is: who cares? For years, such pointless questions have determined whether a high school student is ready to move on to college and the workplace. Fortunately, the California Department of Education has finally comprehended the absurdity of this logic with the recent suspension of the CAHSEE, or the California High School Exit Exam.

The CAHSEE, which started in 2002, primary served “to significantly improve student achievement in public high schools” according to the CDE. Over a decade has passed since its inception, and it has ultimately failed that purpose. According to a study by two professors from UC Davis and Stanford, the CAHSEE requirement “had no positive effects on students’ academic skills, and a large negative impact on graduation rates that fell disproportionately on minority students and on female students.”

This bold claim was corroborated by two studies from the University of Michigan. One study concluded that the CAHSEE had “no measurable impact on 13 to 17-year-old students’ reading or math achievement levels” and the other found that students “who had earned diplomas in states that required exit exams experienced the same chances of employment and the same wage rates as those who were not required to pass exit exams.”

A major problem with standardized testing is the disparity between every education system and to a more specific extent, the disparity in social class and race. When the Class of 2013 first took the CAHSEE, there was a conspicuous achievement gap based on race and economic status. Fifty-eight percent of African-Americans passed the exam, compared to the 85 percent of whites that passed. Sixty-three percent of the economically disadvantaged passed compared to the 88 percent of the non-disadvantaged.

Consequently, those who failed the first time were placed in state mandated “parallel and intervention” classes, and school became focused on getting the students to pass the exam, rather than on providing the proper education that qualified students were receiving.

On top of all this, the financial cost of implementing the CAHSEE, along with any other standardized test, is hefty. The CAHSEE itself costs $75 million and preparation for test costs around $50 million, amounting to a total of $125 million spent on a useless test every year.

The effectiveness of the CAHSEE is truly questionable, having failed its purpose while only bearing negative consequences in return. It was wise of the CDE to suspend the CAHSEE after its contract expired. With its removal, no longer will students face the discrimination of a meaningless test.

Should we see the CAHSEE again?

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