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I was shocked by Ken Miller's cover story entitled "Crenshaw Holding the Line on Exit Exam." Some honor roll students at Crenshaw High School have repeatedly failed the California High School Exit Exam. Most people would assume that a child earning a 3.5 grade point average or above would be successful in school.
A 3.5 grade point average means that a student with seven classes could earn six As and one C. This situation points out a major problem. Many parents and students focus on grades and ignore test scores. Although grades are important, it is not the only indicator of success.
High grades + high test scores = high ability. State tests (like the CAHSEE and the California Standards Tests (CST)) are an important measure of success or failure in school. Even though standardized tests are hotly debated, grades and test scores combined provide a clear picture of grade level ability. Opponents of standardized tests feel that the tests are too hard or culturally biased. The truth is a student performing on grade level, will be able to pass the test.
Every spring, students in the second through eleventh grade participate in the CSTs. These tests measure how much students have learned about math and reading for their grade level. The CST and CAHSEE are both based on state standards, which outline the skills and knowledge that children should have learned by the end of each grade.
Students that have successfully mastered grade level skills score Advanced and Proficient on the CST. Students that score Basic, Below Basic, and Far Below Basic have fallen behind academically, which means that they will eventually have problems passing the CAHSEE if they do not improve.
The CAHSEE is based on eighth grade math and tenth grade language arts skills. High school seniors who are not able to pass the CAHSEE are at least two to four grade levels behind. Parents and students can take action by getting informed and finding out if their child's grades actually match their ability level. Any honor roll student who is not able to pass the CAHSEE is a victim of a substandard education.
Unfortunately, grades are not always based on learning. In low performing schools, the majority of the students are below grade level. Schoolwork is often adjusted to meet the needs of the largest population of students. Students who are well-behaved and complete the work often receive high grades. Students earning high marks on easy schoolwork may have a high grade point average, but they are not prepared for state tests. Even if they graduate from high school, they may not be able to deal with the level of work required to pass college classes.
Parents should work diligently to ensure that every year their child is meeting grade level requirements. If not, they need to aggressively address their learning gaps through working with their child or hiring a tutor. When a child is below grade level, it is an emergency. As each year passes, it gets harder to catch up and the stakes get higher.
Â Taiesha Flenaugh can be reached at