Press Release

Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Legislation Resolving Valenzuela v. O'Connell Exit Exam Lawsuit

10/15/2007

SACRAMENTO, CA (October 12, 2007) ─ Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law today intended to give a major boost to students who continue to try to pass the California High School Exit Exam after they complete the 12th grade.

The exit exam tests math and English language skills, and the Class of 2006 was the first graduating class required to pass it in order to receive diplomas. Nationwide, twenty-five states now have high school exit exam requirements or are in the process of introducing them.

The bill, AB 347, offers exit exam remediation and counseling services targeting students who do not pass the exam by the end of high school. The new law provides access to two additional years of exit exam remediation following the 12th grade for students in districts accepting the funding. This is a critical extension for those students still in need of instruction in the test materials. For English Learner students, the remediation should include further instruction in English language proficiency. Students at risk of not passing by the end of high school are to be provided individual counseling about the exam and their options for further remediation.

The California state legislature has allocated about $280 million in related funding to support the new measure, which was designated an urgency bill so that services can be made available immediately in school districts that request the financial support.

AB 347 resolves Valenzuela v. O’Connell, a lawsuit brought by Morrison & Foerster LLP. Valenzuela challenged the exit exam requirement on behalf of California students in the Class of 2006 who had met all graduation requirements except for passing the exam. Named plaintiff Liliana Valenzuela said in response to the new legislation, “I am pleased that our settlement will be able to provide help for the many students like me across the state who are finished with high school but are still working hard to pass the exit exam.”

About 34,000 students from the Class of 2006 and 29,000 students from the Class of 2007 still have not passed the exit exam. Another 61,000 students in the Class of 2008 have started their senior year without having passed the English portion of the exam; 56,000 have not yet passed the math section. Lead counsel Arturo J. González, a partner with Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco, welcomed the Governor’s signing, and said, “We are still concerned with the educational inequity in our public schools, but are hopeful this new legislation will help students pass this test.”

A toll-free number, 1-866-234-4503, has been set up for students and parents to request information about remediation services available in their districts. The full text of AB 347 can be accessed at http://www.sen.ca.gov/ under "Legislation."

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