Important Facts Regarding the California High
School Exit Exam (CAHSEE)
What is the CAHSEE?
In 1999, California enacted a law required that
every California public school student pass an
examination to receive a high school diploma. The
purpose of the exam is to ensure that high school
graduates are able to use mathematics and con read and
write in English effectively and competently. This
decision was highly controversial and met with huge
opposition. In July 2003, the California State Board of
Education decided that the Class of 2006 would be the
first students required to pass the California High
School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) to receive a diploma. The
rational for the delay for implementation was to give
both educators and students several years to prepare
themselves for the exam.
When do you take the CAHSEE?
The CAHSEE is administered over two days, usually
during a studentís 10th grade year in high school. On
the first day, students will take the English-language
arts portion of the test; on the second day, they will
take the mathematics portion.
What does the CAHSEE test?
The English-language arts section consists of
multiple-choice questions and a short writing
assignment. The mathematics portion of the test is
composed entirely of multiple-choice questions. All the
questions on the CAHSEE are based on Californiaís
academic content standards in English-language arts and
mathematics. These standards outline what students are
expected to know and be able to do by the end of each
school year from kindergarten through high school.
What math topics does the CAHSEE test?
The CAHSEE is designed to address skills that are
fundamentally important to daily life. Therefore, the
CAHSEE tests skills addressed in sixth grade, seventh
grade standards (all strands) and Algebra 1 standards.
The exam includes statistics, data analysis and
probability, number sense, measurement and geometry,
mathematical reasoning and algebra. Students are also
asked to demonstrate a strong foundation in computation
and arithmetic, including working with decimals,
fractions and percentages.
The breakdown is as follows:
Data Analysis, Probability
More on Algebra and the
When do you find out if you passed?
School districts receive students?score reports
about two month after the date of the exam. One copy is
kept in the studentís permanent record and the other
is mailed home. (It is important that parents/guardians
keep their copy. The State of California does not keep a
copy of the scores.) Scores range from 275 to 450. A
passing score is 350 or higher.
What if you donít pass the CAHSEE?
Students who do not pass the exam in the tenth grade
year will have several opportunities to pass in their
junior and senior years. Once the student has passed a
section of the exam, they will not have to retake that
portion of the exam. Students that fail a portion of the
exam must, by law, be offered extra instruction to learn
what they need to know in order to pass. Contact your
school administration and counselor immediately to find
out what type of help is available.
What if a student has special needs?
If a student has an Individualized Education Program
(IEP) or Section 504 plan, it should describe any
special arrangements the student is entitled to while
taking the exam.
What if a student has not passed by their senior
By law, districts are required to provide
instructional support for students struggling to pass
the CAHSEE. However, if student has met all high school
requirements and has not passed the CAHSEE by the end of
their senior year, they will not receive a high school
diploma. Students may retake the test up to three times
a year until they pass, no matter how many times that
takes. Students are entitled to support from their
district to help achieve this milestone.
Are districts held accountable?
Absolutely! The state and federal governments use
the CAHSEE as a measure of school and school district
accountability. The state accountability program is the
Public Schools Accountability Act, and the federal
accountability program is the No Child Left Behind Act.
The use of CAHSEE results for these accountability
programs in no way affects how the CAHSEE is used for
individual student accountability.
For more information and resources about the CAHSEE
Source: California. California Department of Education.
Preparing for the California High School Exit Exam. Sacramento: CDE Press, 2004.
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