Special ed students receive high school exit exam exemption | SierraSun.com

Special ed students receive high school exit exam exemption

Christine Stanley

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed an act of legislation that will allow special education students to receive a high school diploma even if they haven’t passed the California High School Exit Exam, a new requirement for the class of 2006.The decision will impact 26 students in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.Richard Jones, director of special education services for Tahoe Truckee Unified, said that of the 26 special education seniors in the district, eight have already passed the exam and another nine will never have to take the exam. There is little interest in making the exception permanent at the state level, said Jones, but there was debate to extend the exemption to two years instead of only one, a decision that the governor vetoed.”The governor has a belief that every kid needs to be on a diploma track, and that’s not recognizing that every child is different,” Jones said. “Among those seniors are some students who are severely handicapped and have extreme challenges, and in no way would be able to meet the requirements of the [exam].”The California High School Exit Exam is a two-part test that focuses on English/language arts and math skills and must be passed in order for a student to receive a diploma, starting this year. The exam came under fire for failing to take special education students into consideration, but an agreement was made to allow those students to be exempt for one more year. The exemption, which is in the form of legislation as SB 517, was proposed by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles. “Just in time, this legislation provides a measure of justice to many hardworking high school students who are otherwise on track to graduate this year,” said Sen. Romero, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Urban School Governance and serves on the Senate Committee on Education, in a prepared statement. “SB 517 is about equal access to well-earned diplomas. It’s a compromise bill that ends a long, expensive, and courageous battle for thousands of kids who faced being left out of the 2006 high school commencement ceremonies.”In early 2005 the state allocated roughly $750 per disabled student in every school district in order to provide supplemental instruction. In Tahoe Truckee Unified, that allotment amounted to $18,000, Jones said.”We are all trying to work hard to meet the need for our students and are always thinking of different ways to help students succeed,” said resource specialist Valerie Fletcher.The bill exempts disabled high school seniors from the exam if they have an Individualized Education Plan, are on track with class work and credits for graduation, adhere to other graduation requirements and have taken the exam at least twice beyond their sophomore year, including once in their senior year, according to Romero’s statement.Romero’s bill has components of a 2005 settlement in the case of Chapman v. the California Department of Education, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the State Board of Education.The lawsuit pertained to a Fremont teenager with learning disabilities who wanted leeway with taking the exam. – Sun News Service reporter William Ferchland contributed to this report.On the Net:Read SB517 at: http://www.sen.ca.gov