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California Legislature Tries to Rescue Students Denied Diplomas

By guest blogger Catherine Gewertz. Cross-posted from High School & Beyond.

California lawmakers scrambled this week to draft emergency legislation to allow about 5,000 students to graduate even though they lost their last chance to take the state-required exit exam. They're expected to take up the measure this week.

In a related development, officials of California State University announced that accepted students would not be denied their places in the incoming freshman class because they hadn't been able to take the exit exam.

Those were the latest turns of events in the curious-and-curiouser saga of the California exit-exam bungle. As we reported earlier this week, about 5,000 students were left hanging this summer when the state allowed its contract for the exit exam to expire, cancelling the July administration—the last-ditch session, for many—of the test that's required for graduation. That unfinished business was keeping many students from enrolling in training courses, the military, and college.

State legislators wrote a bill that would permit those students to graduate, and were scheduled to take initial action on it as early as Wednesday, according to EdSource.

The San Francisco school board already took action to respond to the diploma fiasco, voting last week to throw out the state exit-exam requirements for the class of 2015. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland is considering taking similiar action today.

In a post on the Cal State blog, CSU officials said that not having taken the exit exam, known as the CAHSEE, doesn't pose a problem because the test itself is not a requirement for admittance. What is required is a "graduation date" on a student's transcript to "verify successful completion of the required coursework for admission." CSU staff will work with students and families to resolve transcript questions if the cancellation of the July CAHSEE was the only reason they don't have graduate dates on their transcripts.

"We have asked the admissions offices at all 23 CSU campuses to be flexible in the final evaluation of new freshmen who might not have received their graduation date on final transcripts," said Loren Blanchard, CSU's executive vice chancellor for academic and student affairs. "California high school graduates who aspire to enroll at a CSU campus and meet all other requirements for admission to the CSU will not be turned away because of the decision to cancel the exam."

The University of California has said that it, too, wouldn't deny admitted freshmen their places in class, but that it isn't aware of any students affected by the cancellation of the July CAHSEE.

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