Information about CHSPE not readily available to students

March 30, 2010

Nicole Pham

Those dissatisfied with the school system can leave early by taking the California High School Proficiency Examination (CHSPE), but few Washington students know about it.

Most students drop out, complete independent study or attend an alternative school, such as Robertson. Some students learn about the CHSPE through word of mouth, but the school has not communicated this option to all juniors and seniors.

According to state law, high school principals are required to distribute an announcement explaining the CHSPE to each student in grades 11 and 12. The superintendent is responsible for informing the principals.

Students who pass CHSPE earn the legal equivalent of a high school diploma by obtaining a Certificate of Proficiency, even without the required units for graduation. Those interested must be between 16 and 18 years old. The exam includes math and English language arts sections. Taking and passing CHSPE, however, does not necessarily require a student to leave high school.

“I believe students should be made aware of this option by school staff,” superintendent Milt Werner said, in an e-mail.

Principal Linda Fernandez relies on career technician Michelene Wittmer and school counselors Carol Brahmst, Britny Stewart and Carrie Merfeld to relay information about CHSPE to students.

In her eight years as a counselor, Stewart knows of two students who took the test.

“For most people, it’s not the alternative they want to take,” Stewart said. “They don’t want a full exit.”

English teacher Teri Hu prepared “How Would You Like to Finish High School Early?,” a presentation about CHSPE, at a Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) meeting Dec. 7.

“It is not up to counselors, teachers or administrators to determine if a student would possibly want to take CHSPE,” Hu said.

“At most, maybe a dozen or so kids will take it, but that will be a dozen kids who would otherwise be miserable in high school.”

The test is administered three times a year: March, June and November. Though the March 21 test date passed, those interested can apply for the June 19 test by May 21.

The fee is $92 for regular registration, $120 for late registration and $145 for special registration. Results are mailed July 23.