Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

CAHSEE Description - CalEdFacts

This content is part of California Department of Education's information and media guide about education in the State of California. For similar information on other topics, visit the full CalEdFacts.

California Education Code (EC) Section 60850(a), enacted in 1999, authorized the development of the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE). 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.

The following sections provide historical information about the CAHSEE during the years that it was administered.

Student Participation

Districts were required to send notification about the CAHSEE to parents or guardians of grade nine students at the beginning of the first semester or quarter of the regular school term and each year thereafter. Transfer students received notification at the time they transferred.

The first opportunity students had to take the CAHSEE was in the second half of grade ten. Students who did not pass one or both parts of the CAHSEE in grade ten had up to two opportunities in grade eleven to retake the part or parts of the examination not yet passed; grade twelve students had at least three, andup to five, opportunities to retake the part or parts of the exam not yet passed. Adult students could take the CAHSEE up to three times per school year. Only the part or parts the student did not pass could be taken again.

Students who are English language learners (ELs) were required to take the CAHSEE in grade ten with all other grade ten students. During their first 24 months in a California school, ELs were to complete 6 months of instruction in reading, writing, and comprehension in the English language (EC Section 60852). During this time, they were still required to take the CAHSEE. Test variations were available to ELs who regularly used these variations in the classroom. Examples include being tested in a separate room with other ELs; extra time within the testing day; English-to-primary language or primary language-to-English translation glossaries; or allowing students to hear a translated version of the test directions and to ask clarifying questions in their primary language.

Options for Eligible Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities were permitted to take the CAHSEE with certain accommodations and/or modifications as specified in their individualized education program (IEP) or Section 504 plan for use on the CAHSEE or standardized testing or during classroom instruction and assessment. Students who took one part of the examination using accommodations and earned a score of 350 or higher had passed that part of the CAHSEE. Students who took part of the examination using modifications, received the equivalent of a passing score, and had met all other state and local school district graduation requirements were eligible for a diploma if a waiver of the requirement to pass was granted by the local governing board.

Beginning in the 2009−10 school year, EC Section 60852.3 provided an exemption from meeting the CAHSEE requirement as a condition of receiving a diploma of graduation for eligible students with disabilities who had an IEP or a Section 504 plan. The IEP or 504 plan was required to include a statement that the student was scheduled to receive a high school diploma, and had satisfied or would satisfy all state and local requirements for high school graduation on or after July 1, 2009.

Examination Content and Format

The ELA part of the CAHSEE was aligned with the California ELA academic content standards through grade ten. The ELA part of the CAHSEE consisted of multiple-choice questions and a writing task. The reading portion included vocabulary; reading comprehension; analysis of information and literary texts. The writing portion covered writing strategies, applications, and conventions. The writing task called for students to provide a written response to literature, to an informational passage, or to a writing prompt.

The mathematics part of the CAHSEE was aligned with the California mathematics academic content standards through the first part of Algebra I. The mathematics part of the CAHSEE consisted of multiple-choice questions. It included the following mathematic strands: statistics; data analysis and probability; number sense; measurement and geometry; mathematical reasoning; and algebra. Students were required to demonstrate strong computational skills and a foundation in arithmetic, including working with decimals, fractions, and percentages.

Reporting and Using Results

The passing score for the mathematics part of the CAHSEE was approximately 55 percent of items correct or a scale score of 350. The passing score for the ELA part of the CAHSEE was approximately 60 percent of items correct or a scale score of 350.

Local educational agencies (LEAs) could provide supplemental instruction aligned to the state content standards to assist students who had not passed the examination. This instruction may have included summer school for seniors who had not passed one or both parts of the CAHSEE. In addition, the LEA could provide intensive instruction to grade twelve students who had yet to meet the CAHSEE requirement for up to two years after completion of grade twelve for the parts of the CAHSEE not yet passed. Funds slated for intensive instruction for grades eleven and twelve, and for adult students could be used at the LEA’s discretion.

For more information regarding the CAHSEE, please contact the CAHSEE and Physical Fitness Assessment Office by phone at 916-445-9449 or by e-mail at cahsee@cde.ca.gov. Information is also available on the CDE CAHSEE Web page.

Questions:   CAHSEE Office | cahsee@cde.ca.gov | 916-445-9449
Last Reviewed: Friday, November 13, 2015
Recently Posted in Testing

  • CAASPP Update, Issue 171 (updated 19-Sep-2016)
    California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) e-mail update, September 14, 2016.
  • CAASPP Update, Issue 170 (added 12-Sep-2016)
    California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) e-mail update, September 7, 2016.
  • CAASPP in Action Kerman (PDF) (added 09-Sep-2016)
    This is the Kerman Unified CAASPP in action report, 2016.
  • CAASPP in Action Anaheim (PDF) (added 07-Sep-2016)
    This is the CAASPP in Action report for Anaheim 2016.
  • CAASPP in Action Centinela (PDF) (added 07-Sep-2016)
    This is the CAASPP in Action Centinela report 2016.