No Exit? New York Times Ad

On November 6, 2013 Applied Research Center (ARC) was rebranded as Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation. The content on this page was published on the ARC website prior to the rebrand.
April 13, 2006

She Earned Her Diploma
Now Gray Davis Wants to Take it Away

Gray Davis wants to place one more hurdle before graduating high school seniors -- an exit exam.For many students it will mean no exit.Davis' proposal means that students who have met four years of academic requirements, and who play by the rules everyday, will be denied a diploma.

Everyone knows there are problems in California's schools.
    •    The least prepared teachers are teaching the most disadvantaged students.
    •    The schools are overcrowded, segregated, and underfunded.
    •    Students of color are tracked for failure -- by seventh grade, two-thirds of all schools will have separated students by their "tested" ability, steering them into vocational, remedial, and low academic tracks.

Exit exams simply reflect this reality. Students who get a second-rate education will do poorly on the exam.

This racially-biased outcome is already evident in Texas. Mexican American and African American students make up 40% of all Texas seniors, but they represent 85% of the students who fail the final administration of the Texas high school exit exam each year. What's been the result in the Texas classroom? Teachers report that they now spend a significant portion of the academic year preparing students for the exam.

As FairTest Public Education Director Robert Schaeffer observes, "Believing that you can improve schooling with more tests is like believing you can make yourself grow taller by measuring your height."

Gray Davis says that education is his first, second, and third priority. But what is his commitment to racial equity?

Exit exams aggravate existing inequalities and do NOTHING to enhance academic excellence.

They are a phony fix to a complex problem.

If we really want excellence in schools, let's fix the schools, not punish the students.

Is this what we want in California?

Exit exams with racially biased outcomes? Just say no!

The Applied Research Center's new policy brief: "No Exit? Testing, Tracking, and Students of Color in U.S. Public Schools," is available online here.

See also the Spring 1999 issue of ColorLines , featuring a special section on Race and Education.

ColorLines : Race, Culture, Action. The nation's leading magazine on race, culture, and organizing.