Law changes allow diplomas without passing exit exam

Josh Miller reacts after receiving his diploma during the San Benito High School graduation ceremony in 2014.

While they might not have marched across the stage to pomp and circumstance, dozens of high school students in San Benito County who didn’t pass the California High School Exit Exam are set to receive retroactive diplomas.
Two new laws allow high school students who met all the graduation requirements, with the exception of passing the state exit exam between 2006 and 2015, to take home a diploma.
The change will affect 63 students, explained Cindi Krokower, San Benito High School District’s director of educational services, according to minutes from the Feb. 16 board meeting.
No students were affected by the bills at Anzar High School, said Principal Charlene McKowen, when she spoke with the Free Lance about it in February.
“I thought it applied to one student but it turns out she did pass the portion she was having trouble with,” McKowen said.
The exit exam, which tested students’ proficiency in language arts and math, was formerly a graduation requirement in California. Senate Bill 725, which took effect in August 2015, suspended the requirement that students in 2015 pass the exit exam to earn a diploma, as long as they met all other graduation requirements.
Senate Bill 172, which came into effect Jan. 1, did the same for students in the classes of 2006 through 2014, according to minutes from the meeting. SB 172 also suspended the administration of the state exit exam for three consecutive school years, starting with this school year.
Adrian Ramirez, the principal of San Benito High School, added that many students affected by the laws are English-language learners, including students who just arrived to the country and have been in the United States less than five years, he told the Free Lance in February.
Some students don’t go to college and pursue other opportunities, but many of those still require high school diplomas, the principal explained. Those without high school diplomas are at a disadvantage in the workforce, he said.
SB 725 will affect four students, and SB 172 will impact 59 students at San Benito High School, according to minutes from the Feb. 16 school board meeting.
“We want students to be at least at the starting point. And without a high school diploma, you’re not there yet,” Ramirez told the Free Lance in an interview.
San Benito High School staff members are reaching out to affected students to let them know they can pick up diplomas. Dialers are being used to call the most recent numbers on record, and the district’s superintendent and principal are reaching out to the community on social media and through a formal letter, Ramirez said.
“Again, the further back we go, the more difficult it will be to track those folks down,” Ramirez said, referring to the multiple years of students impacted by the laws.
To contact San Benito High School about retroactive diplomas, call (831) 637-5831.

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