By Nick Sweeney
All Santa Rosa high schools, as of February 11, have decided to let students who have not passed the CAHSEE take part in the graduation ceremonies. Santa Rosa High will let the students who do not pass the test walk at graduation, but the students will only receive a certificate of completion of high school classes, not a diploma. Our school is the same, letting those who passed all their classes and acquired sufficient credits walk across the stage come early June. In Santa Rosa, this practice has become an issue; defenders are claiming CAHSEE is racist, and works against immigrants, while attackers say that if the students aren’t eligible to graduate, they shouldn’t participate in the ceremony.
Rather than look at the students and trying to place blame on them, let’s look at a bigger problem. The students are passing classes, and not a test that is less demanding than those classes. Are teachers passing students who do not deserve to go on to the next grade, taking the easy way out and giving up on them, rather than helping? Or are classes asking less and less of students to a point where they are easier than CAHSEE. To assume either of these possible conclusions to be true would be slanderous; and if they were the roots of the problem, it would be close to impossible to solve them. If you take one step back, and look at an even broader picture, an easy solution arises, a solution that will solve two statewide problems. There is another state wide test that is taken much too lightly; The STAR tests, administered to every student freshman through junior year, are used to determine how much money a school gets from the state, yet the students generally take it as a joke. The results do not affect a student directly, or affect their grades; for some STAR week is seen as a vacation of sorts. If the STAR replaced CAHSEE, determining every year if freshman became sophomores and so on, they would be taken more seriously, earning more money for the school. And through this newfound will to succeed, it would also give schools a comprehensive year to year look at how students compare to state standards. Everyone who gets to senior year would deserve to be there, and more importantly, those who could not move on from one grade to another would re-do the year, get the extra schooling they needed, and prove themselves capable of joining society on an academic level. Rather than funnel the students through on an academic conveyor belt, the students who needed help would receive it, bettering them for graduation and post high school life. What good to society are people who are not proficient in reading, or cannot complete simple math? By checking students and testing them every step of the way, we can better society as a whole, and everyone will walk with a diploma that will be all the more satisfying because it was truly earned. And those who try to spell words on scan-trons during STAR tests: Shame on you!