New Decision Could Dramatically Change Graduation Outcomes for Disadvantaged Youth

On August 14, the San Francisco Board of Education amended the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD)'s graduation requirements, a decision that immediately grants diplomas to 107 SFUSD students who received a Certificate of Completion instead of a diploma for the 2014-2015 school year, as a result of not having passed both sections of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE).

This decision makes SFUSD the first school district in California to defy the state law requiring students to pass the CAHSEE in order to graduate. For many of the foster youth SFCASA serves, this decision will now ease the pathway to college an post-secondary education regardless of whether or not they were able to pass the CAHSEE. 

"This is a decision that's right for students. Now young people who worked hard to meet all of the requirements and took all the steps necessary for admission to a four year state college, including challenging coursework and a grade of C or better, will be able to start college in the fall," said Superintendent Richard A. Carranza.

The decision comes in the wake of a pending vote on California Senate Bill 172 that could suspend CAHSEE administration and eliminate the requirement of students to pass the exam as a condition of high school graduation. The recent cancellation of the July 2015 CAHSEE this year eliminated another opportunity for many seniors to obtain a high school diploma, disproportionately affecting students of color, English Learners and socioeconomically disadvantaged students. In an unacceptable twist, nearly 30 SFUSD students who had hoped to take the CAHSEE in July were faced with the potential revocation of their admission to college due to their lack of a high school diploma. 

However, there is now hope for the students of 2015. Several of those who demanded justice against this inequality were awarded honorary diplomas in light of the CAHSEE decision. Now, diplomas will be issued to all students in the class of 2015 who received a certification of completion instead of a diploma solely because they hadn't passed both sections of the CAHSEE, but had completed all SFUSD credit and course requirements.

If the CAHSEE is eliminated, it could mean a huge difference for disadvantaged youth, especially for those in foster care. The ability to get a diploma without taking the exam would open many doors for youth who wish to pursue them such as college, better job security, and most post-secondary education options. For foster youth, this opportunity could make a huge difference in their ability to succeed once emancipated from care by giving them the opportunities they need to get a leg up in the world. This is only the beginning, as indicated by Superintendent Carranza, who said in light of the CAHSEE decision, "Students, when you raise your voice and demand justice, justice will be done." 

Students who would like more information about whether or not they qualify to receive a diploma under the new SFUSD graduation requirements may contact SFUSD at [email protected].