Obligatory Blogging About CAHSEE
There is much to the coverage that feels sloppy and inaccurate. Do not report the total number of students failing without also reporting the total number of students failing who also lack the GPA and credits to graduate. If 47,000 failed it and 46,999 went into having previously failed to demonstrate the common indicators of learning, it is a non-event. Relatively. It's the kids with the credits and 2.5, who have received no notice from their teachers and their schools of inadequate knowledge whose failure is the most repugnant. I want to read about those kids, if they exist. On a slightly different note, I do not want to read about California high schools as if they were this generic whole, no one school different from any other. That is clearly and demonstrably false.
Coverage aside, on the central issues, I feel torn.
Torn because the inequities are pervasive and debilitating. We know the data; we know that kids born into poverty, into non-English speaking families, kids with dark skin -- we know those kids will have fewer quality teachers, and will attend schools with fewer resources, less security, and more negative role-models than positive. We know that low-income Latino and African-American kids are more likely to have a variety of factors pulling them away from educational success than pushing them upward. Like the outcome of a presidential election with pervasive voter fraud, the results of a high school exit exam emerging from a grossly unjust system provide no basis for forward thinking, only evidence of the need for reform.
Torn, because I believe in the power of teachers and schools to overcome those inequities and the obstacles they erect. I believe that the adults who run schools have the power to create environments where students are capable of meeting (at least!) these basic requirements. This is a belief I held in college and the last four years of teaching have only served to strengthen and reinforce it. Lack of motivation, poverty, ELL status, family troubles -- there is no excuse for the failure to educate kids, only poor attempts to rationalize and explain away that failure.
Torn. So let me say this: It is wrong for the ruling to have applied to every student, in every community across California. It should have been limited to the individual students bringing suit. Can they demonstrate they were taught by unqualified professionals, in poorly run schools, with insufficient resources? Then again, a diploma in absence of the skills that are to underline it and give it meaning reverts to nothing more than a piece of paper.
Maybe the best we can hope for is a further light-shedding on the problems of education, and an call to further reform.