Friday, April 18, 2008

Good news I suppose

My girlfriend got this article to me about the local response to the state law requiring special ed students to pass the high school exit exam. Our high school district is Sequoia-I feel a bit more hopeful about the whole thing. Certainly, I am pleased to see that this came about so quickly.

Burlingame Daily News - 04/16/2008

High schools eye certificates for special-needs students
State rules force local boards to examine graduation policies

By Will Oremus
E-mail Will Oremus at

Graduating from California high schools will be more difficult this
year for special-education students, but local districts are taking
measures to make sure they won't be left out of end-of-year

A change in state policy this year means that, for the first time,
students with dyslexia, deafness and other learning disabilities will
be required to pass the California High School Exit Exam to graduate.

Following the lead of neighboring Sequoia Union High School District,
the San Mateo Union High School District board on Thursday will
consider creating "certificates of completion" for those students who
fail the exam, but fulfill all other graduation requirements. The
certificates would be handed to the students in place of diplomas
when they crossed the podium.

"For the students who have passed their classes, met their
(Individualized Education Program) goals, done everything except pass
the exit exam, we think it's important to have some kind of
recognition," said Barbara Picheny, director of special education for
the San Mateo district. She and other district administrators are
recommending the board approve the certificates at Thursday's

The Sequoia district's board approved similar certificates for
special-education students at its March 25 meeting.

The changes represent a policy shift by districts that in the past
have generally embraced the state exam, choosing not to award
certificates beyond their official diplomas.

Sequoia allowed traditional education students who passed their
classes, but not the test, to "walk through" graduation ceremonies,
but not receive a certificate, while San Mateo prohibited such
students from participating at all. Sequoia officials who supported
the walk-through policy pointed to the district's large population of
non-native English speakers who struggled to pass the exam's language
arts section.

At its last meeting, however, Sequoia's board decided to join San
Mateo in ending the walk-throughs for nonspecial-education students
this year.

"This is an issue where people had good arguments and passion on each
side," said
Sequoia board member Gordon Lewin. In the 3-2 vote, "Two board
members dissented because they were uncomfortable with the exam
itself," he said.

In creating the certificates for special ed students, but not English-
language learners, Lewin said the board made a key distinction
between the two groups. "Special ed has to do with a disability" that
may directly impact test-taking, "whereas the language learners have
great ability, they just haven't yet mastered all the skills."

Picheny said the vast majority of special education students in the
San Mateo district do pass the high school exit exam. A total of
about 15 special-ed students districtwide would be eligible for the
certificates if the board approves them Thursday, she said.

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