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Teaching in the 408's TMAO, who teaches English language learners in California, responds to the news that a judge has struck down the state's high school exit exam. He has mixed feelings about the ruling. He agrees that low-income and minority students face "pervasive and debilitating" inequities in schooling and have not had the same opportunities as other kids to learn the tested material. Yet, as a teacher, he remains torn:

Torn, because I believe in the power of teachers and schools to overcome those inequities and the obstacles they erect. I believe that the adults who run schools have the power to create environments where are students are capable of meeting (at least!) these basic requirements. This is a belief I held in college and the last four years of teaching have only served to strengthen and reinforce it. Lack of motivation, poverty, ELL status, family troubles—there is no excuse for the failure to educate kids, only poor attempts to rationalize and explain away that failure.

A nice expression, we thought, of the ambiguity—a certain compassion mixed with no-nonsense ambition—that many educators seem to feel during our age of accountability.

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I agree with exit exams and I wholeheartedly dislike excuses that permeate the "poor me! I was raised poor so I should be held to lower standards" sect. I further disagree with the fact that a judge thought that he knew better than the school system. What a wonderful message he would have sent if he told the students that being poor just means that you have to study harder and make better choices. It is not the governments responsibility to provide for you.

Education is not a one-size-fits-all institution but there are universal truths. Exit exams to see if the students really did meet the requirements only makes sense.

Set high expectations-help the kids achieve them-and most of them will! Not everyone makes good choices and we sometimes have to realize that we cannot save everyone.

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