Exam options sought

August 19, 2003 11:00 pm

By CLAIRE ST. JOHN

Now that the state high school exit exam requirement has been postponed until 2006, school trustees have to figure out how to make sure students continue meeting educational standards.

Last night, Sonora Union High School District trustees wrangled with solutions for juniors and seniors, many of whom have already taken and passed the test.

But those tests won't count: The state has decreed that no district will be allowed to use the exit exam as a graduation standard.

So trustees, with no help from the California State Board of Education, discussed ideas ranging from creating a new test to eliminating the requirement altogether.

Superintendent Rob Gaskill said administrators at the only other district he has talked to wish the exit exam had remained a requirement. But the state, fearing a high failure rate because of language and learning barriers, put the exam on hold for two years.

Which means that this year's sophomores are required to pass the exit exam to receive their diplomas. Juniors and seniors, however, are in limbo.

The exam issue was up for discussion only — the board probably will not make any decisions soon, because it will wait to hear school staff members' recommendations.

Classes started yesterday, leaving trustees with a sticky question: How to test the seniors when they've already started school and don't know a new requirement might be expected of them.

"This should have been (addressed) last year," Trustee Mel Ginn said. "This is a new year. I have trouble with that."

The state board in July voted to postpone the exit exam, leaving schools little time to put something new in place.

Paul Howay, father of a senior, said the state left local school boards in an unfortunate position that shouldn't be passed on to students.

"Don't do to the students what the state did to you," he said.

Gaskill agreed.

"You don't change rules on students in mid-stream," he said.