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'Exit Exams': Can't Pass? Don't Graduate


Some California high school students say an exit exam before they can graduate is okay with them. Youth radio's Jasmine Livingston is one of them.

Ms. JASMINE LIVINGSTON (High School Student, Youth Radio): Thanks to a recent controversial ruling by Supreme Court Judge Robert Freedman, students who fail the California exit exam will not be prevented from graduating this year. But you know what, I say they should be. I'm a senior about to graduate next month and I took the test during sophomore year. Personally I thought the test was easy. I didn't even study and still scored within the top ten percent. Students learn ninety percent of the test material in middle school, and if they didn't, they still have all of ninth grade to catch up. Once a student hits tenth grade, teachers provide two study booklets, one for math and one for English.

So there's ample time to study before the test. Plus, a student can retake it if need be. Even after all that preparation, if you fail it sophomore year, you can take it again junior year, and if you don't pass it then you can take it once again your senior year. If, after all that, a student still can't pass the test, then maybe they shouldn't graduate.

The skills needed to pass are essential to successful life, even if you don't plan on going to college. Not knowing them doesn't make things any easier once you enter the real world. That may sound harsh, but it's how I feel. After all, you may not realize it, but you use basic math in just about every job you can think of. And even something as normal as a rental lease or a job application requires the English proficiency that the test also measures.

I mean you have to know what you're getting into right. Of course I do see the other side of it. There are some people that haven't gone to as good a high school as I have and have to deal with incompetent teachers. However, even in such a situation, it's on you to take personal responsibility for your own life. You know you have this test so study for it. And I know a lot of people think the exam discriminates against students whose first language isn't English; but since English is the primary language in schools here in the U.S. it's on the student to learn it however he or she can. Again, it's all about personal responsibility.

To do well here you need to know English, not everything is always going to be translated. Judge Freedman's decision to block California's exit exam gives students yet another cop out. A high school diploma shouldn't just be given out. It should be earned.

BRAND: Jasmine Livingston is a college bound high school senior living in the San Francisco Bay area and that essay was produced by Youth Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jazmine Livingston
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