Katherine Burwell 0

Allow students to earn a high school diploma without passing the CAHSEE

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 Allow students to earn a high school diploma without passing the CAHSEE

It is unfair to deny a diploma to Special Education students who have fulfilled all other graduation requirements based on the California High School Exit Exam.

High stakes testing should be banned.

I am a high school senior and a special education student at risk of not graduating from high school. Here in California, students with special education needs are put in two categories, diploma tracked and not diploma tracked early in the education process. Students able to perform most of the curriculum with accommodations are academically tracked for graduation. The students found less able to participate in curriculum are put on a functional skills, vocational track. I have always been on an academic track. I have always been told I could graduate and go to college. I have always had to work a little harder than other students to achieve this goal. Through hard work, I will easily fulfill all the requirements, have all the classes and all the credits I need, to graduate by the end of my senior year, June 2013. I have passed the California High School Exit Exam in English and Language Arts. However, I have not passed the Math portion of the Exam. As things stand now, this will prevent me from graduating with a diploma. I have the accommodation of using a calculator in my Individual Education Plan, which means I can use a calculator if they decide to give me a waiver for it. However, I will still be required to pass with a score of 350 or more.

In previous years, there was an exemption; you could apply for to graduate, having not passed one or even both portions of the test. You had to prove effort on the part of the student and the school and the decision was made on an individual basis. It was not guaranteed that an exemption would be granted and apparently quite a hassle to go through. This exemption now expires on December 31, 2012. There is no exemption option for me. To prove my effort and to qualify for a possible exemption, I have been made to take Math all four years of high school, instead of the 2 years required to graduate. I have had to give up electives in order to take more math classes and have not even been able to take a foreign language. I have worked harder at Math than any other subject and it has pulled down my other grades and my grade point average.

Now in my senior year, I am finally taking a class for students who have not passed the exit exam and I hope I will learn enough to pass it. I am to take the test on a monthly basis throughout this school year. It takes three months to get the results, so it is possible I have already passed and will take the test two more times before I find out. I do not think so; it was just as hard as all the other times.

I have had RSP support for Math since the second grade, I have had many teachers and none has been successful in teaching me math. I have a major medical problem, which causes chronic fatigue along with other symptoms, and my energy is limited. I have a visual perceptual problem, which strongly affects my ability to understand Math concepts even when allowed to use a calculator. I have worked very hard in school. I have more absences than most students do and I work very hard to keep up. I spent almost a full school year at home sick and with several severe medication complications and eventually even received home schooling. My health is much better now but I still have a hard time navigating the campus and getting around in the time allotted. I use a portable keyboard, because my writing is very slow and difficult, otherwise I am given very little help or accommodation. I have received almost no vocational or self-help skill training because I am diploma tracked. For 13 years or more, if you count preschool, I have focused on my education. It is extremely unfair that one test can keep me from earning my diploma.

Please, if this law also affects you, share your story here. If you graduated with a waiver or exemption, please share your story, too. If you are from another state, please explain how this would be handled in your state, do you have such high stakes exit exams? I will share all the stories I collect with the people who make these decisions and maybe we can get them to reconsider and make a change.

If you think it is wrong that students like me, who have worked hard, have all the classes they need and all the credits they need and have done everything, but pass a test, will not get a diploma, please sign my online petition at  http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/allow-students-to-earn-a-high-school-diploma/. I will send it to Governor Brown, our California State Legislator, and Education committee of the California state Senate and Congress, California Department of Education and the State Board of Education members. Please help by sharing this petition with everyone you know. I hope to gather a lot of names.

Thank you for reading my story.

Katie Burwell




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