Senior exam put off

July 22, 2003 12:00 am

By CLAIRE ST. JOHN

After lawsuits, complaints and general gnashing of teeth, the state-imposed high school exit exam has been postponed until the class of 2006 is trying on caps and gowns.

With a unanimous vote this month, the California State Board of Education absolved next year's seniors of passing the exit exam and put the yoke on next year's sophomores, instead.

The delay addresses the nearly 20 percent of next year's seniors not expected to pass the test that measures a student's math, writing and English skills.

While next year's seniors celebrated the reprieve, local administrators suffered mixed feelings of relief and let-down.

"I'm very disappointed, personally, with the state board's action," said Rob Gaskill, superintendent of the Sonora Union High School District. "It may be very hard to convince students and some staff to approach the exit exam with the same sense of urgency now that the finish line is pushed back two years."

Next year's seniors have been taking and passing the exit exam since they were sophomores, and Gaskill estimates only 30 of next year's seniors had yet to pass the test when the state board made its decision. They would have had three tries in their final year of high school.

Summerville High School also has about 30 seniors who have yet to pass the exam.

"On one hand, it's good for the to-be seniors who haven't passed, but for the ones who have worked really hard and passed, it's a disappointment," said Dave Urquhart, Summerville High School principal.

Some students will feel cheated by the decision, agreed Calaveras High School Principal Mark Campbell, but the delay will just heighten the intensity and focus of the school's preparation.

"There will be a sense of relief, but I don't think we'll relax at all," Campbell said.

About 25 Calaveras High seniors have yet to pass the test.

"There will be mixed feelings, but not a lessening of our focus or momentum, just a shifting of focus onto our sophomores," Campbell said. "As far as academic support, we were really focusing on the seniors and juniors."