The California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) was an examination created by the California Department of Education, that was previously mandated to administer in High Schools statewide in order to graduate. The examination was suspended in 2015, when governor Jerry Brown signed a bill undoing the decade old requirement (the bill goes into law effective January 2016). It was originally created by the California Department of Education to improve the academic performance of Californiahigh school students, and especially of high school graduates, in the areas of reading, writing, and mathematics. In addition to other graduation requirements, public school students needed to pass the exam before they could receive a high school diploma.
Students first took the test in the beginning of their sophomore year. If they do not pass one or both of the two test sections, then they may retake the section or sections that they have not yet passed. Up to 2 test (or 8) opportunities are available to students before the end of their senior year.
The test was originally intended to be required of students graduating in 2004, but full implementation was delayed until the class of 2006. Approximately nine of every ten students ultimately passed by the end of the 2005-2006 school year. In 2010, 81% of 10th graders passed each of the two sections on their first try.
Prior to the CAHSEE, the high school exit exams in California were known as the High School Competency Exams and were developed by each district pursuant to California law. In 1999, California policy-makers voted to create the CAHSEE in order to have a state exam that was linked to the state’s new academic content standards. The legislative bill to create the CAHSEE was championed by former state senator Jack O'Connell. The first students to take the test were volunteers from the class of 2004, who took it as high school Freshmen in spring 2001 (March and May). In October 2001, Assembly Bill 1609 removed the option for ninth graders to take the CAHSEE beginning with the 2002 administration. The CAHSEE was next administered in the spring of 2002 to all tenth graders who had not passed it during the spring 2001 administration. Initially, the CAHSEE was intended as a graduation requirement for the class of 2004; the State Board of Education later revised the deadline and it was officially imposed first on the class of 2006. Due to controversy denying the graduation of students who failed, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that suspended the exam and is no longer required for a diploma for students graduating twelfth grade until July 31, 2018.
The CAHSEE is divided into two main sections: English-language arts (ELA) and mathematics.
The English section includes about 80 multiple-choice questions and requires students to write one or two multi-paragraph essays.
The essay portion provides a question that will prompt the student to write a persuasive essay, a business letter, a biography, a reaction to literature, or an analysis on the subject of the question. For example, in 2002, one group of students was asked to write an essay that persuaded people not to leave trash on the school grounds. Essay questions change with each test date. The essay portion is scaled out of one to four (with zeros given in special cases, such as for off-topic or non-English responses).
The mathematics section consists of about 90 multiple choice questions.
The English section tests students at a 10th-grade level, and requires a score of 60% to pass; the mathematics section tests students at an 8th-grade level, and requires a score of 55% to pass.
|School year||Passing math test||Passing English test|
The number of students passing the test on their first attempt has risen slightly each year since 2004. More than three-quarters of students pass the test more than two years before they finish high school, and more than nine out of ten students to pass the test by the end of high school.
The passing rate of Asian and white students is higher than that of Hispanic and African-American students. Students learning English have the lowest passing rate, with one out of every four failing the exam in 2006.
Passing the test was first required for the Class of 2006. As of June 2007, 91% of the 404,000 students in this class had passed the test before graduation, 1% failed the exam in 2006 but passed it in 2007, and 4% were still in school, either as fifth-year seniors or having transferred to a community college.
As of February 2007, 91% of students in the Class of 2007 had passed both sections of the exit exam, an increase from the class of 2006.
High school students with documented disabilities are allowed reasonable accommodations to keep those disabilities from being an unfair impediment toward proving academic competence. Tests administered with accommodations do not interfere with what the test was designed to measure or with the student's ability to earn a legitimate diploma. For example, a student with visual impairments may need a copy of the test in large-print or Braille. If the student does not score the required minimum score on each test, he/she will not receive a diploma.
Anything interfering with what the test was itself originally intended to measure is considered a 'modification' (for example, reading a test aloud to the student, if the purpose of the test is to determine whether the student can read), nullifying the results for graduation purposes. (These test results are still included in the calculations concerning school performance measures.) Schools offer modified tests to students with disabilities to let them participate, to the extent reasonable, in the normal activities of the school.
Beginning with the Class of 2010, eligible disabled students may graduate without passing the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE). Eligible students have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan that indicates that the student has satisfied or will satisfy all other state and local requirements to receive a high school diploma, except for passing the CAHSEE test. This exemption shall last until the State Board of Education either implements an alternative means for students with disabilities to demonstrate achievement in the standards measured by the CAHSEE or determines that an alternative means assessment to the CAHSEE is not feasible.
Students with disabilities are still required to take the CAHSEE in grade ten for purposes of fulfilling the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
If a student has severe disabilities, an alternative test, the CAPA, can be given instead. This was intended to shorten the test for students whose chances of success on the CAHSEE were determined to be extremely low. There is no diploma granted under this condition, unless the student is exempted from needing to pass the actual CAHSEE.
Effect on students
Many schools and districts allow students who had failed the exit exam, but met other graduation requirements, to participate in the public graduation ceremony, although they may not receive a valid diploma unless they qualify for exemption as a student with a serious disability. Some districts present these students with certificates of completion to recognize that they have met all other graduation requirements. The certificate of completion signifies completion of the required coursework and failure to meet the minimum standards set for either or both of the CAHSEE tests.
In the Los Angeles Unified School District, Superintendent Roy Romer allowed those who did not pass the CAHSEE to participate in graduation activities if the student agreed to take the CAHSEE during the summer.
The test has highlighted educational disparities by race, disability, income, and whether English is spoken in the home. This has been politically embarrassing for school districts, who were previously able to ignore their failures.
Though O'Connell, by then the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, resisted the political pressure for a delay, the state legislature granted students with previously documented learning disabilities a one-year reprieve in 2006.
In May 2006, an Alameda County Superior Court judge struck down the CAHSEE, ruling that students from disadvantaged schools, the majority of them with low income or recent immigrants, had not been appropriately prepared for the test. The California Department of Education appealed the ruling directly to the state Supreme Court, which reinstated the exam and upheld the CAHSEE.
Alternative assessments, such as evaluating students based on a portfolio of class work, have been proposed and rejected. Alternative assessments consider a greater range of student work, but being non-standardized assessments, they are more susceptible to bias in grading. They are also much more expensive to grade, and concerns have been raised about cheating, since a student could present work created in a completely unsupervised setting.
Supporters of the test say that since one in ten students fails the test, despite having passing grades, then receiving passing grades in California high schools does not indicate that the student has learned the material. School grades may instead represent rewards from teachers "for being friendly, prepared, compliant, a good school citizen, well organized and hard-working" rather than mastering the subject material.
- ^ abcd California Department of Education. "Program Overview," retrieved July 7, 2006.
- ^ abc Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times. "Exit Exam Leaves 2006 Class 42,000 Short," June 2, 2006. Retrieved July 7, 2006.
- ^California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) Results for Mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA) by Program (Combined 2010) for (Grade 10): State Report from the California Department of Education's High School Exit Exam Office. File Date: 7/20/2010.
- ^Beasley, Kathleen (November 2002), The California High School Exit Exam: Gearing Up for The High-Stakes Test(PDF), The CSU Institute for Education Reform.
- ^ ab Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times. "O'Connell Is Champion of Exit Exam," May 29, 2006. Retrieved July 7, 2006.
- ^"Bill Text - SB-172 Pupil testing: high school exit examination: suspension". leginfo.legislature.ca.gov. Retrieved 2015-11-02.
- ^ California Department of Education. Standards and Assessment Division. "CAHSEE Language Arts Blueprint," July 9, 2003. Retrieved July 7, 2006.
- ^ California Department of Education. Standards and Assessment Division. "CAHSEE Mathematics Blueprint," July 9, 2003. Retrieved July 7, 2006.
- ^CAHSEE DataQuest. California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) 2009-10 Summary Reports: State reports (CAHSEE State Report; Combined administration; 10th grade). California Department of Education. Accessed 15 December 2010.
- ^"California school exams are imperiled". San Jose Mercury News. June 8, 2007. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 2007-07-06.
- ^Marjorie Hernandez (June 18, 2007). "Most county seniors pass exit exam". Ventura County Star. Retrieved 2007-07-06.
- ^Assembly Bill 2 of the 2009–10 Fourth Extraordinary Session (ABX4 2) (Chapter 2, Statutes of 2009), which enacted California Education Code Section 60852.3
- ^Fermin Leal (June 29, 2007). "Exit exam keeping 394 students from graduating". The Orange County Register. Retrieved 2007-07-06.
- ^Weinkopf, Chris (2002). "Blame the test: LAUSD denies responsibility for low scores". Daily News.
- ^"Blaming The Test". Investor's Business Daily. 11 May 2006.
- ^ California Department of Education. "Senate Bill 517 Q&A." Retrieved July 7, 2006.
- ^ Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times. "Quick Answer Sought on Exit Exam," May 20, 2006. Retrieved July 7, 2006.
- ^ Jeff Hudson, The Davis Enterprise. "Exit strategy," January 22, 2006. Retrieved July 7, 2006.
- ^Hollister Free Lance. "The Trouble With CAHSEE," January 4, 2006. Retrieved July 7, 2006.
- ^Tyre, Peggy (27 November 2010). "A's for Good Behavior". The New York Times.
Do you go to school in California? Chances are you’ve heard of the CAHSEE – the exam all Californians need to take to graduate high school.
You might be wondering how to pass the CAHSEE. In this post, we will explain what the CAHSEE tests, what you need to do to pass, and how to study for it.
What Is the CAHSEE?
The CAHSEE (California High School Exit Examination) is an exam all California high school students must pass to earn a high school diploma. Students take the exam for the first time sophomore year, and retake it in later years if they don’t pass.
The exam has two sections – math and English Language Arts (ELA).
Most students, around 80% each year, pass the exam on their first try. In 2014, 85% of sophomores passed math and 83% of sophomores passed ELA.
However, the pass rate is significantly lower for English Language Learners (ELLs) and students with disabilities.
In 2014, 42% of special education sophomores passed math, and 39% passed ELA. Only 54% of ELLs passed math, and 38% passed ELA. The test is only given in English, making the ELA portion especially challenging for students still learning the language.
The CAHSEE is not designed to be an extra burden or especially difficult, and students are expected to pass with the basics of what they learn in high school. The goal of the CAHSEE is to ensure all California high school graduates have met a certain skill threshold.
However, if you’re worried about passing, this guide will give you the tools you need for success – and a California high school diploma.
What If I Fail?
Before we dig into the study guide, it’s important to know what happens if you fail the CAHSEE.
You will take the CAHSEE for the first time sophomore year. If you don’t pass a section, you will just have to retake that section – for example, if you pass ELA but fail math, you will only have to take math again. If you fail both sections, you will retake both.
You can retry the CAHSEE twice in junior year and up to five times senior year. So don’t stress if you don’t pass during sophomore year – you will get plenty of chances to retry the test.
If you don’t pass by graduation, you can try for up to two school years after. Depending on your district, there may be summer school or fifth year options to help you pass the CAHSEE and complete high school. Contact your school to find out their policy for students who don’t pass CAHSEE by graduation.
How To Pass The CAHSEE: English
The English, or ELA, section is mostly multiple-choice, though there is a written response section as well. It covers reading and writing topics.
To pass, you need to be able to comprehend and analyze passages, and also know the basics of English grammar and writing strategies. If you don't do much reading in your spare time, try to do a little every day, even if you're just reading articles online or books for fun. Daily reading can help you get better at reading comprehension, even on standardized tests like the CAHSEE.
This section is untimed, so unlike high-stakes tests like the SAT and ACT, you don’t have to worry about pacing.
The reading topics are:
- Word Analysis (7 questions)
- Reading Comprehension (18 questions)
- Literary Response and Analysis (20 questions)
The reading questions mostly consist of reading passages and answering questions about them.
The writing topics are:
- Writing Strategy (12 questions)
- Writing Application (1 essay question)
- English Language Conventions (15 questions)
This comes to a total of 72 multiple-choice questions, plus 7 additional unscored questions sprinkled in used to test out new question types.
The ELA section is given a scaled score between 275 and 450. A scaled score means they translate the raw scores (a.k.a. how many points you get from right answers) into a number between 275 and 450. Anything above 350 is passing.
There is not a set amount of raw points you need, since scaling can change from test to test. So you should aim to get a majority of the questions correct, though you don't need to shoot for perfection.
Your essay will be assigned a score from 1 to 4, with 4 being best. Two people will read it, and their scores will be averaged. Your essay won’t be scored if it is illegible, not in English, or off-topic.
How To Pass the CAHSEE: Math
The math section of the CAHSEE is all multiple-choice questions. It is untimed, so again, you don’t have to worry about rushing through.
However, there are no calculators allowed, so you have to do all math work by hand. If you rely on calculators to do multiplication and division, you have to practice doing math on paper.
To pass, you also need to have a pretty solid understanding of math through basic geometry and Algebra I.
Or practice on a chalkboard for some old-school cool.
The math section tests the following topics:
- Probability, Data Analysis and Statistics (12 questions)
- Number Sense (14 questions)
- Algebra and Functions: (17 questions)
- Measurement and Geometry: (17 questions)
- Algebra 1 (12 questions)
- Mathematical Reasoning (8 questions)
- Unscored trial questions (12 questions)
This makes for 92 total questions.
The math section is also scored between 275 and 450, with anything above 350 passing. Again, aim to get a majority of the questions right, but don't worry about being 100% perfect.
CAHSEE Study Guide
So now that you know what's on the CAHSEE and how many chances you will have to pass it, how should you study for it? And what can you use? We will show you how to come up with a study plan, what resources to use, and how to get help at school.
Score Report = Study Guide
After you take the CAHSEE, you will get a detailed report that says how well you did in each topic. For example, it will say how many Algebra and functions questions you got right, in addition to giving an overall math section score.
If you failed the CAHSEE the first time, don’t get overwhelmed by the score report saying all the things you did wrong. You don’t have to fix every single mistake to pass – you just need to fix enough to get above 350.
Use your score report as a study guide. Start with the sections you missed the most questions on and focus on learning that material first.
As an example, say a student got the following score report for math:
- Probability, Data Analysis and Statistics: 7 / 12
- Number Sense: 11 / 14
- Algebra and Functions: 3 / 17
- Measurement and Geometry: 2 / 17
- Algebra 1: 2 / 12
- Mathematical Reasoning: 4 / 8
While this student missed points in every section, they have the most work to do in Algebra and Functions, Measurement and Geometry, and Algebra 1. Since those topics build on each other – you need to understand basic algebra before getting Geometry and Algebra 1 – they should start by studying Algebra and Functions, and then move onto Geometry and Algebra 1.
Also, those sections also happen to be the largest, with 17 questions each for Algebra and Functions and Measurement and Geometry, and 12 questions for Algebra 1.
So if they can improve their scores in those three sections, they will be on track to pass. If they have extra time, they can review the other sections. But they should focus on learning Algebra and Geometry skills and practicing problems in those sections.
If you haven't taken the CAHSEE yet, start with the official study guides (which we will link to below) and focus on what is most difficult for you.
Gather Your Resources
You won't need tons of books to study for the CAHSEE, since there are many resources online. Make sure you have studying basics, though, like a notebook, pen, and earplugs if they help you focus.
Before you start studying, you need some materials! Luckily, there is a free, official CAHSEE study guide online and tons of practice questions for each section – way more questions than actually appear on one CAHSEE.
1. Math study guide
2. Math released questions
3. ELA study guide
4. ELA released questions
The study guides will walk you through what problems are going to be on the CAHSEE, and what you need to know. Start by reading the study guides before moving onto the practice problems. To do the practice problems, either print them out or look at them on the computer. (You can use a blank notebook to keep track of your answers.)
Doing the practice problems is also important so you get used to the format of the CAHSEE. When you correct the problems, don’t just mark what you got wrong and tally your score, try and figure out why you got the question wrong and what you didn’t know.
Pretend It's The Real Thing
You don’t have to time yourself while practicing, since CAHSEE is untimed, but remember to simulate test conditions by not using a calculator or any outside resources. If you don’t know a question, circle it. Come back to it later and figure out what you would need to know to get the question right.
Schedule, Schedule, Schedule
Make studying for the CAHSEE part of your weekly schedule. Put it in your calendar like it’s another class or sport. By making CAHSEE studying a set part of your weekly routine, you can retain information from week to week and make sure you get plenty of practice.
Also, make sure when you study you find a quiet room without distractions. Whether that means finding a table at your school library or asking your family to give you some space after dinner at night, make sure you find a good study spot. It’s very hard to focus with distractions around, especially other people.
Find School Resources
Of course, you shouldn’t try to study completely on your own. Your school probably has resources for CAHSEE studying – it’s a goal for every California high school for all of their students to pass and graduate!
Some schools have CAHSEE classes you can take. Others have after-school or Saturday study sessions. While it’s not fun to have to give up after-school time for studying, even just a few sessions could help you learn what you need to pass, and you might study faster than you would on your own.
Is this the coolest place to spend a Saturday? No. Can it help you pass CAHSEE? Yes.
To find out how your school helps students with CAHSEE, go to the guidance counseling office and ask about CAHSEE classes and resources.
If your school doesn’t have these, you can find a math and an ELA teacher to help you study. Ask if they can explain topics that you don’t understand, or to help go over practice test answers with you. Some schools also have peer tutoring, and you can ask for help there as well.
If you receive special education services, ask your school’s special education department coordinator about resources for CAHSEE, including accommodations you might not have received that could help you pass.
If you normally get accommodations on tests, you should be able to get the same accommodations for CAHSEE.
English Language Learners
If you’re an English Language Learner, ask your school’s ELL coordinator about accommodations you can get on the CAHSEE, including bilingual dictionaries or a read-aloud test.
Remember, it’s in your school’s best interest for all students to pass the CAHSEE. Don’t be shy about tracking down resources that can help you.
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