- Associated Press - Thursday, August 20, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - About 5,000 high school students who couldn’t graduate this year because the state canceled a required exit exam would receive a reprieve under legislation advanced Thursday.

The students were expecting to retake a test in July that they needed for diplomas, but it was canceled because the testing provider’s contract expired. Lawmakers say students are unable to enroll in college or join the military as a result, although the University of California and California State University systems say students won’t be denied entry because of the cancellation.

“The vast majority of them are first-generation immigrants, who have overcome war, violence, poverty and language barriers to finish every other graduation requirement,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco. “None of these students should have their dreams deferred.”

SB725 by Oakland Democratic Sen. Loni Hancock heads to the Senate for an urgent vote to suspend the testing requirement.

About 20,000 students do not earn their diploma at the time of graduation each year. Of those, about 5,000 only need to pass the high school exit exam in order to graduate, according to the state Department of Education.

But those students were left in limbo this year when the July exit exam for students to try again was canceled.

The state’s contract with Educational Testing Service, which provides the exam, expired as it shifts to new testing aligned with the Common Core standards for math and English.

The Department of Education was expecting the requirement to take that out-of-alignment exam suspended under legislation introduced earlier it the year.

Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen blasted the situation as avoidable.

“This is something we have been working on for years. There is no logical reason we couldn’t have been prepared,” the Modesto-area Republican said.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the state’s largest, says nearly 500 students are unable to graduate despite completing all necessary coursework because of the July cancellation.

California State University is allowing first-time freshmen who applied and were provisionally admitted to attend even if they were not able to take and pass the July exit exam. Passing the test is not a requirement for CSU admission, though the school noted that some students still don’t have a graduation date on their high school transcripts because the test was canceled.

Steve Montiel, a spokesman for the University of California, said none of the university’s undergraduate campuses have reported encountering any problems for admitted students so far.

___

Armario reported from Los Angeles.


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