Exam allows for early graduation

Providing an alternative academic path, the California High School Proficiency Exam was created for students who intend to graduate high school early.

The test includes a reading and writing portion in addition to a math section that covers topics from Pre-algebra, Geometry and Algebra 1. A unique aspect of the exam is that, once passed, students don’t have to graduate right away and can instead choose to hold onto their credentials up until the graduation of their entire class. After passing the exam, students need parent approval in order to receive the equivalent of a high school diploma.

Despite this opportunity, few Diamond Bar High School students actually take the exam.

“I think whether it would be worth taking is dependent on the situation,” junior Ryan Golonka said. “I can get a good amount of college credit in one year here just taking AP Exams and I feel the experience here is still valuable for me so I’d rather stay.” 

However, this isn’t to say that the opportunity is completely ignored by brahmas. Kathleen Suwoko, who would have been a junior this year, took the exam at the end of last school year and graduated early. However, she only plans to attend college for three years and will graduate from college in 2024.

My main motivations were to stay ahead and to be able to save time while giving myself enough time to explore my options in terms of my career path,” Suwoko said via email. “I believe graduating early allows one to have more freedom in terms of their career paths without worrying about time and other little things.”

Although the exam is typically taken advantage of at DBHS due to students’ preference for having a full high school experience, another reason for a lack of testers may be contributed to the school’s failure to advertise the exam to students.

“I had found out about the exam from my sister after she found out it was a better alternative to the General Education Exam,” Suwoko said. “I believe it is a good option if you have a clear idea of what you want to do.”

According to grade-level coordinator, Richard Gonzales, the main reason this option is not promoted is because of the school’s proclivity for students to stay in school and graduate alongside their classmates.  

“Staff probably doesn’t advertise the exam for the same reason I do, I’d love for kids who start with us to end here with us as well,” Gonzales said. “When students approach me with the idea of taking the exam, I usually try to explain to them the great experiences they would miss.”

While graduating early may sound appealing to some students, a potential drawback in doing so includes limited options for colleges.

“Most students after passing the exam will move on to a community college like Mt. SAC,” GLC Dave Desmond said. “The exam is not something like the SAT that looks really good on a college application so the bar is not nearly as high as it would be for higher level colleges.”

Considering the exam does not force students to graduate immediately after passing, GLC Sonja Burns expressed the dual purpose of taking the exam as it serves as a backup option for students. While she still believes students should stay in school and receive the full high school experience, Burns expressed her support for those who feel like graduating early is the right option for their future.

“I would say that it isn’t for the majority of students; it should be used for students who may not be feeling high school or are struggling for one reason or another,” Burns said. “Socially, I believe that every student should be in high school, but I think the exam is a good fit for some students.”