Why study when judges can bail you out? | TheUnion.com

Why study when judges can bail you out?

In a classic example of all that is wrong with California’s court system today, it only took one liberal judge to screw up the state’s efforts to make sure high school graduates are at least proficient in eighth-grade math and 10th-grade English. That’s right … eighth grade- and 10th grade-level math and English for graduating 12th graders.

A couple of weeks ago, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman scuttled California’s high school exit exam – a requirement for graduation – because he didn’t think it was fair to require non-English speaking students or students from poor school districts to have to know eighth-grade math and 10th-grade English in order to graduate from high school.

And you wonder why more and more parents are sending their children to private or charter schools?

The ruling came on the heels of a suit filed by 10 students (four of them withdrew after passing the test) who claimed the state did not provide them with an equal opportunity to learn the material.

“I feel very happy,” one of the students who filed the suit told reporters in Spanish (she’s lived in the United States for four years). “Now I’ll be able to have my diploma and fulfill my desire to be a nurse.”

Maybe we ought to just give her a nursing certificate now so she won’t have to take all of those hard courses and sue for discrimination if she fails.

“Sorry, doctor. I can’t read the prescription and if you don’t start drawing pictures, I’m going to sue you.”

A second plaintiff told reporters (also in Spanish) that the judge had “lifted a huge weight off us and has given me an opportunity to continue studying and not be discriminated against for not having my diploma.”

Excuse me? Perhaps she means the “weight” of actually having to know eighth grade-level math and 10th grade-level English before she gets a high school diploma. Perhaps it’s now discriminatory to presume that elementary English really is something she ought to learn if she wants to get ahead in life. Many immigrants have figured that one out. In fact, a Vietnamese student still holds the record for earning a four-year degree from the U.C. system in just more than two years. And students from India routinely win the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

By way of background, this year’s class is the first to have to pass the California High School Exit Exam. Students take the exam once in 10th grade and have up to five additional opportunities to retake each section of the exam. It is a pass/fail test. Once students pass one section, they don’t need to take that section again. Scores range from 250 to 450 for each section, with a score of 350 or higher considered passing (55 percent in math and 60 percent in English).

Students must still pass specific classes and meet other requirements in order to graduate. An estimated 90 percent of California’s 460,000 or so high school seniors have passed the test. Only 37 seniors in the Nevada County High School District have yet to pass the test, but they are awaiting the results of their latest efforts and could get a diploma in July if they pass.

Unless the Alameda Court ruling is overturned – and an appeal was filed late last week with the state Supreme Court – those students will graduate with their classmates next month, much to the dismay of those students who worked their tails off to study for the test. And much to the dismay of those teachers who worked so hard to help them.

The exit exam came on the heels of public outcry as more and more Californians were looking for some accountability from our schools. Proponents of the exam were hoping the test would hold students and teachers to a higher standard and increase the value of a high school diploma.

In his ruling, the judge pretty much determined that a diploma really isn’t worth that much at all. He also failed to recognize that those “poor school districts” have been given millions of dollars to help those students struggling with the exam.

As they will soon learn, graduating seniors will find a tough and competitive world “out there.” Jobs are being outsourced to India and China. College tuition continues to rise and the competitive landscape to get into a good university has never been greater.

Unfortunately, our courts have created a society of entitlement, where personal responsibility is not necessary as long as there are lawyers and judges willing to blame someone, or something, else.

We can only hope that our state’s highest court will find that it’s really not that much to expect the high school graduating class of 2006 to know how to balance a checkbook and interpret the works of Mark Twain.


Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299, jeffa@theunion.com, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

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