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Santa Barbara County Districts Will Issue Retroactive High School Diplomas After Exit Exam Suspended

Former students who met graduation requirements, minus passing the California High School Exit Exam, urged to contact their most recent school to get a diploma

With the California High School Exit Exam erased from history, Santa Barbara County school districts are getting set to issue diplomas to those didn’t receive them due to failing the statewide test.

On Oct. 7, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 172  requiring school districts to grant diplomas to any students who completed graduation requirements other than passage of the Exit Exam, which also has been suspended for the next three years.

The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2016, which is when schools will be permitted to issue diplomas to eligible students from the classes of 2014 and earlier. 

A different law suspended the test requirement for the class of 2015, allowing those who failed the exam, but met other requirements, to already receive diplomas. 

Starting  in 2006,  California required all high school students to pass a test to earn a high school diploma. Some students with disabilities were exempt from the requirement.

School representatives are busy reviewing records to determine who is eligible to receive the overdue diplomas and telling former students to contact their high schools or the district office.

Santa Maria Joint Union High School District officials said they are putting together a program to issue diplomas to their students who didn’t receive them due to failing to pass the Exit Exam, Superintendent Mark Richardson told the board in mid-October.

Officials were reviewing the status of some 750 alumni who didn’t receive diplomas to determine who met the graduation requirements but failed to pass the exam.

They also plan to reach out to students to get current contact information, officials said.

Lompoc Unified School District officials already have reached out to would-be diploma recipients with a notice on its website.

“If you or someone you know met all of the graduation requirements but did not pass CAHSEE between the school years 2004 to 2015 and did not receive a high school diploma, please have them contact the high school and or adult education program they last attended to determine if they meet the local and state graduation requirements to receive a high school diploma,” wrote Arthur Diaz, director of pupil support services for LUSD. 

Approximately 65 former students may be eligible to receive diplomas, but district officials are still reviewing the matter, a staff member said.

At Rincon High School in Carpinteria Unified School District, two students in the class of 2015 didn’t pass the Exit Exam, but one has since received the diploma. 

Principal Barnaby Gloger, who also is Carpinteria’s pupil services administrator, said school representatives are trying to contact the second student to deliver the paperwork.

Carpinteria High also had one student who didn’t get a diploma due to failing to pass the exam in 2015.

A district staff member is busy reviewing records from earlier classes to determine the overall number of students eligible for a diploma, but Gloger estimated it’s likely two or three each year.

During his years in education, Gloger said has seen assorted factors lead students to fail the Exit Exam.

“A lot of it are students who have test anxiety,” he said, adding the test typically was administered in a giant group where distractions were plentiful.

Additionally, he has observed students’ self-worth and self-esteem suffer because they failed the test as sophomores.

“Suddenly, you’re dealing with that,” he said. “You start getting a sense of failure. You start putting yourself down. You lose your confidence.”

Gloger has encountered students who took the test multiple times and failed, some missing by a few points.

He recalled one student returning at the age of 20 to take the CAHSEE in hopes of finally passing and earning a diploma.

“This was a student who just could not pass math,” Gloger said. “I didn’t like the social-emotional piece involved. It’s a real confidence killer.”

Carpinteria officials have mulled whether to hold a ceremony to present the overdue diplomas, according to Gloger who said officials are exploring whether recipients would be interested. 

The Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District also had a couple of students from the class of 2015 fail the Exit Exam. Superintendent Scott Cory estimated the district’s overall number of students affected by failing the Exit Exam adds up to a dozen.

Santa Barbara Unified School District representatives did not provide data about how many former students may receive diplomas now that the Exit Exam is suspended.

California created the Exit Exam to ensure students graduate from high school with grade-level skills in reading, writing, and math, state education officials said.

Students first took this test in 10th grade, and could retake the test two more times in 11th grade and five more times in 12th grade. 

However, several failed to pass the test which was made up a math and English language arts sections. Statewide, passage rates were approximately 95 percent.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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