Friday, April 04, 2014

Why the Exit Exam destroyed my entire class…

Now I understand why my Exit Exam results are so damn poor.1

From the California Department of Education’s Exit Exam website:

  1. What are the guidelines for sensitive topics on the CAHSEE?

To keep the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) free from potentially biased, sensitive, or controversial content, the following topics are avoided on the examination:

Keeping a written exam free from “potentially biased, sensitive, or controversial content” sounds fair enough.  You wouldn’t want to promote super disturbing topics that might create additional stress on the students taking the test, so I get this.  Let’s take a look at each topic and make sure that the guidelines are themselves void of being potentially biased, sensitive, or controversial.

  • Violence (including guns, other weapons, and graphic animal violence)

Fair enough.  And while high school is the place to teach about violence and it’s impact on society, I get why you leave it off a test.

  • Dying, death, disease, hunger, famine

Guess this leaves out Billy Ray Cyrus’ career.  Famine?  Disease?  Out of bounds?  Understandable but how about critical thinking problem that solves a global famine issue.  Nope, it’s out of bounds.

  • War

Ok now we are straight boring.  What is it good for?  Absolutely…..a great way to engage students on a test.  War and Peace studies?  Wait, Peace studies?  Nope, doesn’t have the same ring.  Sorry American Revolution, you are out.

  • Natural disasters with loss of life

Seems legit.

  • Drugs (including prescription drugs), alcohol, tobacco, smoking

You have now lost a significant teenage population and about 75% of Mendocino County students.  Have an essay prompt arguing the pro and con of marijuana legalization and you might have a thesis a mile long. 

  • Junk food


  • Abuse, poverty, running away

Abuse and run-aways I get.  Leaving out poverty is just straight foolish.  I know, give a written test to millions of elements of human capital, and leave out a massive social problem that impacts all of them.  Great call.

  • Divorce


  • Socio-economic advantages (e.g., video games, swimming pools, computers in the home, expensive vacations)

Someone is living in the 1980’s if they think that a video game is a socio-economic advantage.  No, I’m not kidding.  Every cell phone, calculator, computer, and iPod has some kind of game attached to them, and believe me, they are very prevalent. 

  • Sex

Wouldn’t want to offend Standards and Practices while talking to kids about something they are already doing. 

  • Religion

Because America’s history isn’t about religion at all.  Is it. 

  • Complex discussions of sports

WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?  Seriously, what does it mean?  No sports talk?  Does this mean that Richard Sherman’s rant is ok but talking about Title IX is off the books?  Tiger’s lay-up on 18 at Augusta is cool but unionizing student athletes is a no-no? 

  • Slavery

Because, you know, slavery.  It might be the most embarrassing moment in all of American history so you might as well avoid nearly two and a half centuries of it.  Because, you know, slavery.

  • Evolution, prehistoric times, age of solar system, dinosaurs

Solar Systems and dinosaurs are out.  So are the little boys and girls that want to hold on to something interesting in testing.  Because we all know “Pluto:  Planet or Something More Sinister”  might rile up someone.

  • Rap music, rock concerts

Because the old geezers that work in the California Department of Education still refer to Chuck Berry’s music as “that damn Rock n’ Roll.”

  • Extrasensory perception, witchcraft    


  • Halloween, religious holidays

How Halloween (which actually is religious) gets mixed in with perceived religious holidays is beyond me.  Quick, name me a religious holiday.  Don’t say Christmas, you liar.  You celebrate your new LCD television on that day, not the birth of a carpenter. 

  • Anything disrespectful, demeaning, moralistic, chauvinistic

Shit, and there goes the entirety of American society.  Start with Brian Wilson’s beard and end with an airbrushed Lena Dunham, and we now have nothing to write about.

  • Children coping with adult situations or decisions; young people challenging or questioning authority

Oh, so now the Beat Generation and the Sixties are out?  Just dump all of a person’s high school memories?  Gone?  NO JOHN HUGHES MOVIES?

  • Mention of individuals who may be associated with drug use or with advertising of substances such as cigarettes or alcohol

See “Complex Discussions of Sports”

  • Losing a job, home, or pets

Yeah, icky stuff.

  • Rats, roaches, lice, spiders


Is it me or are we basically trying to protect students from anything, you know, not nice.  Let’s ask our guest how he feels about it:


Doesn’t seem to like the CDE’s choice of guidelines.

  • Dieting, other concerns with self-image

Dammit.  I already used up my Lena Dunham bit earlier in the post.  

  • Political issues

-slams head against desk

-quits job as government teacher

-moves to Ohio in hopes of finding Westerburg High School, Winona Rider, and Christian Slater

  • Any topic that is likely to upset students and affect their performance on the rest of the test

So just to be annoying, translated; anything else.

Guess that leaves only one real topic that kids can write about.

What can possibly be controversial about My Little Pony?





1  I teach Seniors, and therefore, I don’t teach kids taking the Exit Exam. 

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