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California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE)

The California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE), formerly a graduation requirement for students in California public schools, was suspended effective January 1, 2016.

Below is information regarding the suspension of the CAHSEE, results and reports from previous administrations of the CAHSEE, and historical information.

  • For more information about the CAHSEE, contact your local school district.
  • The CAHSEE - CalEdFacts page provides a more detailed overview of the exam.
  • The information below was developed to provide assistance to various groups that are directly involved with, or have an interest in, the CAHSEE.

Pathways to Graduation Survey

The California Department of Education is conducting a survey to gather public input regarding the continuation of the high school exit examination and alternative pathways to satisfy high school graduation requirements. This survey will be available until April 15, 2016. Please complete the Pathways to Graduation Survey.

A Spanish version of the survey is available at Pathways to Graduation (Spanish version).

CAHSEE Suspension

Beginning with the Class of 2006, students in California public schools were required to pass the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) to demonstrate competency in grade-level skills in reading, writing, and mathematics to earn a high school diploma. The content of the CAHSEE was based on content standards in English-language arts and mathematics that were adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE) in 2003. In 2010, the SBE adopted the Common Core State Standards in English–language arts and mathematics.

Due to the change in academic standards, Senate Bill 172 (Liu) was signed by the Governor to suspend the administration of the CAHSEE and the requirement that students pass the CAHSEE to receive a high school diploma for the 2015–16, 2016–17, and 2017–18 school years. The law required that schools grant a diploma to any pupil who completed grade twelve in the 2003–04 school year or a subsequent school year and met all applicable graduation requirements other than the passage of the high school exit examination. The law further required the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to convene an advisory panel to provide recommendations to the Superintendent on the continuation of the high school exit examination and on alternative pathways to satisfy the high school graduation requirements pursuant to Education Code sections 51224.5 and 51225.3. The law became effective on January 1, 2016.

Suspension of the CAHSEE Notification Letter

Frequently Asked Questions About the Suspension of the CAHSEE
Questions and answers about the suspension of the CAHSEE.

California Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) Frequently Asked Questions (Related to CAHSEE suspension)

Suspension of the California High School Exit Examination Diploma Requirement for Eligible Seniors in the Class of 2015
Letter from Superintendent Torlakson to provide information on the signing of Senate Bill 725.

Researchers

Summary Results

  • Explaining and Using the 2014–15 CAHSEE Summary Results (PDF)
    This document provides an explanation of the 2014-15 CAHSEE summary results to the public. It also provides additional information for school and district staff to assist them in responding to questions from the public.

Reports

History

Overview of the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE).

Purpose and Content

The primary purpose of the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) was to significantly improve student achievement in public high schools and to ensure that students who graduated from public high schools demonstrated grade level competency in reading, writing, and mathematics. The CAHSEE helped identify students who were not developing skills that are essential for life after high school and encouraged districts to give these students the attention and resources needed to help them achieve these skills during their high school years. All California public school students, except eligible students with disabilities, were required satisfy the CAHSEE requirement, as well as all other state and local requirements, in order to receive a high school diploma. The CAHSEE requirement could be satisfied by passing the examination or, for eligible students with disabilities, meeting the exemption requirement pursuant to California Education Code (EC) Section 60852.3, or receiving a local waiver pursuant to EC Section 60851(c).

The CAHSEE had two parts: English–language arts (ELA) and mathematics. The ELA part addressed state content standards through grade ten. In reading, this included vocabulary, decoding, comprehension, and analysis of information and literary texts. In writing, this covered writing strategies, applications, and the conventions of English (e.g., grammar, spelling, and punctuation). The mathematics part of the CAHSEE addressed state standards in grades six and seven and Algebra I. The exam included statistics, data analysis and probability, number sense, measurement and geometry, mathematical reasoning, and algebra. Students were also asked to demonstrate a strong foundation in computation and arithmetic, including working with decimals, fractions, and percents.

Background

After determining that local proficiency standards, established pursuant to EC Section 51215 (repealed January 1, 2000), were generally set below a high school level and were not consistent with the state's content standards, the Legislature indicated its intent to set higher standards for high school graduation. In proposing the CAHSEE, the Legislature's primary goal was to "...significantly improve pupil achievement in high school and to ensure that pupils who graduate from high school can demonstrate grade level competency in reading, writing, and mathematics..." (Senate Bill 2, Section 1[b]). EC Section 60850 (Chapter 1, statutes of 1999-2000, S.B.2, O'Connell) authorized the CAHSEE to be developed in accordance with State Board of Education (SBE)-adopted content standards in ELA and mathematics. The CAHSEE was developed based on recommendations of the High School Exit Examination Standards Panel, whose members were appointed by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and approved by the SBE.

State law required that the CAHSEE be administered only on the dates designated by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Students were required retake the examination until the ELA and mathematics parts were passed; however, students could retake only those parts not previously passed. All students were required to take the CAHSEE for the first time in grade ten. Students who did not pass one or both parts of the CAHSEE in grade ten could take the parts not passed up to two times per school year in grade eleven and up to five times per school year in grade twelve. Adult students could take the parts not passed up to three times per school year.

The CAHSEE was offered for the first time in spring 2001 (March and May) to volunteer ninth graders (class of 2004). In October 2001, Assembly Bill 1609 (Calderon) removed the option for ninth graders to take the CAHSEE beginning with the 2002 administration. The CAHSEE was next administered in spring 2002 to all tenth graders who had not passed it during the spring 2001 administration. The class of 2005 took the CAHSEE for the first time in spring 2003. In July 2003, the SBE took action to move the passage of the CAHSEE as a diploma requirement to the Class of 2006. The Class of 2006 took the CAHSEE for the first time as tenth graders in February 2004.

In addition to the use of the CAHSEE as a graduation requirement, the spring CAHSEE administration was used in calculating the Academic Performance Index for state accountability purposes and Adequate Yearly Progress to meet federal No Child Left Behind requirements.

In 2010, the SBE adopted the Common Core State Standards to be used as the basis for curriculum, instruction, and assessment for California schools.  Due to the change in academic standards, Senate Bill 172 (Liu) was signed by the Governor to suspend the administration of the CAHSEE and the requirement that students pass the CAHSEE to receive a high school diploma for the 2015–16, 2016–17, and 2017–18 school years. The law required that schools grant a diploma to any pupil who completed grade twelve in the 2003–04 school year or a subsequent school year and met all applicable graduation requirements other than the passage of the high school exit examination. The law further required the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to convene an advisory panel to provide recommendations to the Superintendent on the continuation of the high school exit examination and on alternative pathways to satisfy the high school graduation requirements pursuant to Education Code sections 51224.5 and 51225.3. The law became effective on January 1, 2016.

Independent Evaluations

EC Section 60855 required the California Department of Education (CDE) to contract for an independent evaluation of the CAHSEE beginning in January 2000. Each evaluation report was required to include the following: (1) an analysis of student performance, broken down by grade level, gender, race or ethnicity, and portion of the exam, including any trends that became apparent over time, (2) an analysis of the exam's effects, if any, on college attendance, pupil retention, graduation, and dropout rates, including an analysis of these effects on the subgroups described in (1) above, and (3) an analysis of whether the exam was likely to have, or had, differential effects, whether beneficial or detrimental, on the subgroups described in (1) above. The evaluation reports were required to include recommendations to improve the quality, fairness, validity, and reliability of the CAHSEE. The first report of the independent evaluation was completed and presented to the CDE, SBE, Legislature, Governor, and other control agencies on July 1, 2000. Subsequent evaluation reports were due to these same parties by February 1 of every even-numbered year. These reports are posted on the Independent Evaluation Web page.

Historical Program Resources

Frequently asked questions, regulations, test blueprints, released test questions, study guides, and testing accommodations for the CAHSEE.

Questions:   High School and Physical Fitness Assessment Office | cahsee@cde.ca.gov | 916-445-9449
Last Reviewed: Monday, April 11, 2016

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