California suspends the CAHSEE

Photo: Camille Frigillana

Photo: Camille Frigillana

Amid the numerous laws that are set to take effect this year, one of these included the suspension of the California High School Exit Exam, or the CAHSEE. Passing this test, which is typically given to students in 10th grade, has been one of the requirements in getting a high school diploma.

Senator Carol Liu introduced the bill, called SB- 172,  in February 2015 and it was signed by Governor Jerry Brown later that year in October. Sen. Liu’s Education Policy Adviser Ed Honowitz explained that the bill came out of a need to adjust testing in light of the new Common Core implementation.

“Students were being taught based on Common Core standards but the CAHSEE test was not aligned to those standards, so that was where the underlining issue was. Since it was no longer aligned with what the kids were learning, it didn’t seem to be a sort of high stakes sort of test to give to people,” Honowitz said.

Photo: Camille Frigillana

Photo: Camille Frigillana

Common Core is, according to their website, “a set of clear college- and career- ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. Other states began implementing Common Core standards in 2010 and California followed suit in 2012.  With these new changes in learning standards, there was a new disconnect forming between what students were learning in the classroom and what they were being tested on in the CAHSEE. SB- 172 gives California more time to close that gap.

“The bill was really to create a hiatus in the testing. It’s giving the state a chance to make some determination on what would be the next version of a high school exit exam and what would be appropriate given the change in the state standards and such,” Honowitz explained.

Although the issue of dealing with the relationship between Common Core and the CAHSEE was the main one to be tackled, there were other concerns that were being raised in terms of students who were not able to get their high school diploma because they had not passed the exam.

“There was some emergency legislation passed that said that if you passed all of your coursework and met all of the other state and district requirements but didn’t pass the CAHSEE, you should still be able to get your diploma,” Honowitz said.

John Marshall High School (Photo: Camille Frigillana)

John Marshall High School (Photo: Camille Frigillana)

For Adriana Carovska, an 11th grade student at Los Angeles’s John Marshall High School, it does not seem fair to her that people are able to get their diplomas without passing the CAHSEE test.

“I am a terrible test taker so I hate tests and I also don’t like how teachers base your intelligence on tests. But at the same time, I think that everyone could pass the CAHSEE because it’s just that easy of a test. Plus, I think that it’s a good wake up call for students who aren’t taking school seriously that tests actually do matter,” Carovska said.

But Honowitz argued that the test can also be difficult for those who are not proficient enough in a certain subject because of reasons beyond their control.

“In some cases you had English learners who were able to pass everything except the English Language portion. A lot of them haven’t been in the country long enough to have all of the skills required to do that,” Honowitz said.

The CAHSEE, according the the CDE website, consisted of two multiple choice sections involving English language and mathematics. In addition to the English multiple choice section, students must also write an essay in response to a specific prompt.  The maximum points that a student can get in each section is 450, and students must get at least 350 points in those sections in order to pass the entire test.

“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 included 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.”

-cde.ca.gov

Between the years of 2006-2015, an average of 78.58% of English learners passed the CAHSEE as a whole. An average of 48.9% of English learners passed the English language portion of the test, while 61.98% passed mathematics.

This table depicts, by demographic, the percentage of students who passed the CAHSEE between 2006-2015 (Courtesy cahsee.cde.ca.gov)

This table depicts, by demographic, the percentage of students who passed the CAHSEE between 2006-2015 (Courtesy cahsee.cde.ca.gov)

Honowitz believes that the circumstances that certain students are in can prove to be a disadvantage when it came to taking the CAHSEE, and that by failing the test can have serious consequences.

“The negative repercussions of not having a high school diploma kind of cuts off access for a lot of people to a whole set of things including additional education options or entering the military. There were people that had their lives significantly changed based on a couple of points on a test when they had essentially passed their other requirements,” Honowitz explained.

Photo: Camille Frigillana

Photo: Camille Frigillana

With SB- 172, students who were in the graduating class of 2003-2004 and other subsequent years are now able to get their high school diploma so long as they had fulfilled other requirements needed from the school and the district.

The bill will span over three years, and during this time a committee consisting of those part of the CDE will meet and formulate a new test that will better align with the Common Core standards.

According to the bill itself, SB- 172 “would add a new requirement, that the Superintendent [of the CDE] convene an advisory panel consisting of specified individuals to provide recommendations to the Superintendent on the continuation of the high school exit examination and on alternative pathways to satisfy specified high school graduation requirements, to those recommendations to be submitted by the Superintendent.”

“That group has been meeting and they are doing some work to try and determine what should be the next step and what would be aligned to the new California content standards,” Honowitz explained.

Even though there is no official testing that high school students need to pass in order to graduate, the possibility isn’t counted out for the future. Carovska hopes that some sort of testing will start up again.

“High school isn’t a joke, and people need to learn that early on. Sophomores should have some kind of wake up call, and one that’s actually on a sophomore learning level instead of it being super easy like the CAHSEE was,” Carovska said.

Honey, who let the tiger out?!

Residences in Conroe, TX, were in for a surprise Thursday morning when they looked out their window and saw a tiger roaming the streets. According to the Houston Chronicle, residences began calling the police department after they spotted the feline at around 11 a.m. One person approached the tiger, a young female, and stated that she came to him and started to lick his face.

Conroe Police posted this photo on Facebook to find the tiger's owner. (Photo: Conroe Police)

Conroe Police posted this photo on Facebook to find the tiger’s owner. (Photo: Conroe Police)

The tiger was found with a leash and a tag, but authorities weren’t sure where she came from until late Thursday night after they wrote a Facebook post asking for the public’s help. According to CNN, the tiger was part of a bigger ranch that was effected by the recent flooding. The owner of the tiger gave her to a friend who was not ready to take care of her, and she escaped.

The tiger is still in the possession with the police. The owner might face charges as there is an ordinance in place that prohibits dangerous animals within city limits. But knowing the personality of this young female, ‘dangerous’ doesn’t seem like an appropriate word to use.

Microsoft sues Justice Department

This past Thursday, April 15, tech giant Microsoft filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, citing that the government’s seizing of user’s data without them knowing is unconstitutional. This comes fresh off Apple’s battle with the FBI after the iCompany refused to unlock a phone that belonged to a known terrorist.

According to a report by CNN, federal judges have approved around 2,600 secret searches of Microsoft users. And in most of those cases, users are never informed as this judicial orders never expire.

Microsoft is especially targeting a decades old law called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. In a nutshell, this act gives permission for law enforcement to rummage around data without the user’s knowledge. In the real world, law enforcements would have to obtain a warrant before searching a person’s property.

Those on the law enforcement side argue that this law is beneficial to them because it doesn’t tip off a potential suspect that the cops are on to them. However, they often never disclose that an investigation was conducted even after the fact.

This suit is expected to take years to complete, mainly because the laws hasn’t caught up to technology. In the meantime, users should continue using their computers with the knowledge that the government may or may not be watching them.

Jeb Bush- Tampa, Florida Speech: Analysis

On November 2, 2015, former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush held a rally in Tampa, Florida, to kick off his “Jeb Can Fix It” Tour.  Bush returned to the state of Florida, where he served as governor from 1999-2007, and took the stage to talk about many issues that he was determined to tackle if he ever became president and how he would reverse many of the decisions that President Obama has made during his time in office.

Poverty

One of the first issues that Bush talks about is the lack of jobs and its contribution to rising levels of poverty. Bush states that “one in ten able- bodied Americans cannot find full- time work,” or ten percent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the current rate holds at about five percent, and has not been close to ten percent since 2010 and 2011. The numbers back then averaged at about 9.5-9.9%.

The unemployment rate has been on the decline since 2011. (Courtesy: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

The unemployment rate has been on the decline since 2011. (Courtesy: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Bush promptly follows this statistic with another, saying that “one in seven Americans live in poverty.” Unlike the previous one, this statistic is accurate. Feeding America states that in 2014, the poverty rate was 14.8%, which is around one out seven Americans.

After this, Bush says that “one in five children are on food stamps” which is also correct, based on numbers from the Census Bureau. In 2014, it was reported that about 16 million children received food stamp assistance. The amount nearly doubled from 2007, when it was reported that roughly 9 million children received food stamps.

The Economy

Bush then shifts his speech to Obama and talks specifically about the president’s so- called hand in raising taxes and raising the national debt. First, Bush starts of by saying that “Barack Obama has given us $2 trillion of new taxes…” This statement is referring to ObamaCare and how this new health care law will have an effect on raising taxes. Bush’s statement is over exaggerated, according to Politifact. The website states that ObamaCare is expected to bring a little more than $1 trillion in a span of ten years.

Bush also mentions that Obama “managed to grow the national debt by$8 trillion.” Technically, this statement is correct. According to the Washington Post, the debt stood at $10.6 trillion when Obama took office in January of 2009,  As of January 2015, the debt was at $18 trillion. By simple math, Bush is correct. However, due to the already existing fragile state of the economy during the time Obama took office, the blame is not all on Obama’s shoulders.

This chart shows the growth of the national debt, which increased dramatically as soon as Obama took office. This increase can be traced back to the actions of George W. Bush's presidency. (Washington Post Courtesy)

This chart shows the growth of the national debt, which increased dramatically as soon as Obama took office. This increase can be traced back to the actions of George W. Bush’s presidency. (Washington Post Courtesy)

Foreign Affairs

Continuing his criticism on Obama, Bush shifts his speech to Obama’s way of handling foreign affairs, specifically on the Iran Deal that was made official earlier this year. Bush is vocally against the deal, saying that it “gives legitimacy to Tehran and does nothing to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

However, the Iran Deal is Obama’s way of ensuring that Iran does not get its hands on a nuclear weapon. According to an article released by the White House, the deal includes sanctions that will limit Iran’s resources to make a bomb and elongate the time it takes to acquire these resources.

The Iran Deal's effect is generally explained. (White House Courtesy)

The Iran Deal’s effect is generally explained. (White House Courtesy)

Whether the Iran Deal will be successful or not can only be told in time, but Bush’s statement on Obama not doing anything to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions is not very accurate.

Military Spending

Bush says that under the Obama administration, there were “historic cuts to our military.” According to Politifact, military spending (which includes spending on the Pentagon) actually increased in 2010 and 2011, but has declined for four years after that with a cumulative drop of 15%.

These drops were the result of Obama pulling troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and the sequestration, which refers to the automatic cuts that can potentially be made to military and non- military spending if a bipartisan deal was not reached. Negotiations fell through at first, and the cuts went into effect. However, a deal was eventually made and spending increased six percent.

Compared to his predecessors, Obama did not have to deal with a major war on his hands, thus finding no reason to spend so much on military spending. When it comes down to it, Bush is correct that bigger cuts were made, but the context of Obama’s presidency looked different than those in the past.

Bush’s Impact on Florida

Like his other speeches, Bush seems to always revisit his accomplishments as the mayor of Florida in order to show his potential. One such accomplishment that he usually mentions and that he said at this rally is that Florida “led the nation in small business and job creation.”

Indeed, many jobs were created during 1999-2007, but in an article by the Washington Post, much of these jobs were “low paid service industry jobs” with no health insurance. If one measures it by job creation during Bush’s mayor term, Florida still fell short of first place, instead placing fifth. Nevada led the pact in that category, with a 34.6% gain compared to Florida’s 19.8%. When it comes to total jobs counts, Florida still placed second behind California, with only 1.33 million jobs created as opposed to California’s 1.48 million jobs.

For the most part, Jeb Bush seemed to over exaggerate much of his claims, but a few of them were accurate to a fault. Bush has since dropped out of the presidential race after he failed to gain a large support group compared to his opponents.

CIA dog “bombs” training exercise

Explosive material was found on a Virginia school bus on Friday, according to a report from Fox News. The material was left after the CIA conducted  a training exercise using bomb sniffing K9’s , and was found during a routine check done by Briar Woods High School dogs.

The school bus was in use for two days and carried a micture of both elementary students and Briar Woods high school students, which is seen here. (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

The school bus was in use for two days and carried a mixture of both elementary students and Briar Woods high school students, which is seen here. (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

When notified of the accident, parents raised concerns about why the CIA was using school buses that were still being used as opposed to one that has been decommissioned. Additionally, the CIA’s vagueness of what was found on the bus has been frustrating to some parents, as they were given little information about how it happened or what specifically was left in the bus.

“The exact nature of the training material used in this exercise is not being released at the request of the CIA so as not to compromise its training techniques,” county officials said.

Obviously, the CIA should be more worried about improving their training techniques as opposed to compromising it. This accident should serve as a wake up call for the spy agency to be more vigilant during these training exercises and to check and double check what they leave behind, especially if it is something that can be lethal.

Hopefully the dogs that missed it won’t get in too much trouble.