CAHSEE: Understanding Requirements

Requirements surrounding the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) often change and online resources are often out of date. Answers to the questions below can help you navigate CAHSEE requirements.

How many times may students take the CAHSEE?

Students may take the CAHSEE as follows:

- only once per year (Grade 10),

- up to two times per year (Grade 11),

- up to five times per year (Grade 12),

- or up to three times per year (Adult Education) until they pass it.

If a student passes the CAHSEE in July, which school issues a diploma?

After a student leaves a school without a diploma because of failing the CAHSEE, the student could take more classes in the district's adult education program, take the test there, and then get an Adult Education diploma. However, if he or she passed the CAHSEE in July immediately after his or her non-graduation date and met all other graduation requirements (thus qualifying for a diploma), the state does not dictate which school would issue the diploma. Rather, the district gets to decide based on whats contained in local Board policy.

Must Special Education students pass the CAHSEE to earn diplomas?

No. CDE's site at reads:

Beginning in the 200910 school year, EC Section 60852.3 provides an exemption from meeting the CAHSEE requirement as a condition of receiving a diploma of graduation for eligible students with disabilities who have an individualized education program (IEP) or a Section 504 plan. The IEP or 504 plans must state that the student is scheduled to receive a high school diploma, and has satisfied or will satisfy all state and local requirements for high school graduation, on or after July 1, 2009.

What about Class of 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 Special Education students?

We know that Special Education students may still get high school diplomas without passing the CAHSEE, starting with the Class of 2009-2010. But what about Class of 2007-2008 and Class of 2008-2009 students, since they are entitled to supplemental services for up to 2 years after not graduating and may enroll in a district's adult education program during that time? Some districts are handling this in different ways. CDE's site at reads:

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students are entitled to special education services until age 22 or until they receive a diploma. Thus, a district may be required to reopen and revise an IEP for a student who left high school without receiving a diploma, if the student has not reached age 22. If appropriate, the IEP team may revise the IEP of an eligible student. Such appropriate revisions should include additional quality instruction to help the student pass the CAHSEE and may include receiving a diploma without passing the CAHSEE. If the revised IEP calls for receipt of a diploma after July 1, 2009, and the student has satisfied all other graduation requirements, then the student may be exempted from the CAHSEE requirement under the new statute. It is within the discretion of the IEP team to determine what revisions to the IEP, including further instruction, are appropriate for a particular student. A dispute over that determination would be subject to due process.

Students with only 504 plans do not have the same procedural protections as students with IEPs. Federal regulations indicate that one way to guarantee Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) under Section 504 is to provide the same procedural protections as required under the IDEA. However, since the rules are not identical, school district personnel should consult with local counsel when adopting or applying policies regarding reenrolling students with only 504 plans for purposes of receiving a diploma under the new exemption statute.... A student enrolled in an adult school offered by a kindergarten through twelve (K-12) public school district, who left high school without receiving a diploma, should be treated the same as any other student described… above.

Must Special Education students take the CAHSEE in 10th grade?

All Students with Disabilities must take the CAHSEE in the 10th grade census. The only exceptions are students taking the CAPA (but they must still turn in answer documents, coded with a “Z” under each test column). Non-CAPA students may not “opt out” of the CAHSEE in 10th grade. This means students who take the CST or CMA, as well as students that opt out of STAR testing, must still take the CAHSEE in 10th grade. CDE's site at reads:

All grade ten students must participate in the CAHSEE to satisfy Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements. The exemption from passing the CAHSEE for purposes of receiving a diploma of graduation does not affect the requirement of taking the CAHSEE in grade ten. Note:Students with significant cognitive disabilities who participate in the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) satisfy participation in AYP and do not take the CAHSEE in grade ten.

Must Special Education students take the CAHSEE in 11th grade or later?

No, districts do not have the authority to require these students to take the CAHSEE beyond grade 10, but they should encourage them. CDE's site at reads:

The CAHSEE represents academic standards which all students should be encouraged to meet. Students should continue to take the CAHSEE, and to receive appropriate remedial instruction, as it is not prohibited by the new law. However, as described below, a student who is eligible for the exemption allowed by EC Section 60852.3 may not be required to pass the CAHSEE in order to receive a diploma. Furthermore, districts are strongly encouraged to continue to offer remedial instruction and access to the CAHSEE.

Are CAPA students (who never attempted the CAHSEE in grade 10) exempt?

They can be. CDEs site at reads:

Students with significant cognitive disabilities that have an IEP or 504 plans generally participate in an alternative curriculum that has significantly modified grade-level standards. These students are not typically scheduled to receive a high school diploma. However, if the student has met all state and local graduation requirements on or after July 1, 2009, then the student would be exempt from passing the CAHSEE in order to earn a high school diploma. The student would then be awarded a diploma. Note: Students who earn a high school diploma or reach age 22 are no longer eligible to receive special education supports and services.

Should District Office staff notify special education students that they are exempt?

They are not required to. CDE's site at reads:

EC Section 60852.3 does not require that parents… be notified regarding which students are eligible for the exemption. Eligibility is determined by the IEP or 504 plan team of which the parent is a member... Parent notification with regard to this exemption should be treated like any other issue affecting eligibility for special education.

What should the IEP say?

The IEP or 504 plan should state whether or not the student is exempt from passing the CAHSEE. CDE's site at reads:

IDEA and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) require that the IEP and 504 plan address how the student will participate in statewide assessment. If a student with disabilities will not be taking the CAHSEE this year, that should be noted in the IEP or 504 plan and should state that the student will meet the CAHSEE requirement through the exemption.

Your district will probably have desired verbiage you should use. It might look something like this:

[Student First, Middle, and Last Name (ID#)] has satisfied all of the state and local requirements for high school graduation after July 1, 2009. [He/she] is eligible for the Education Code 60852.3 CAHSEE exemption and is scheduled to earn and receive a high school diploma by [Complete Date].

Can exempt students take intensive intervention courses?

Yes. CDE's site at reads:

Districts are encouraged to continue providing intensive instruction even though EC Section 42605 authorizes categorical program flexibility. Districts have flexibility in the use of the identified categorical program funds for 200809 through 201213. Program or funding requirements, as otherwise provided in statute, are not in effect.

Will the waiver process still be in effect?

Yes, but it is still optional. CDE's site at reads: reads:

Since the waiver provisions of EC Section 60851(c) are still in effect, students with IEP or 504 plans may agree to continue to take the CAHSEE or request a local waiver.

Additional information is found at CDE's site at reads:

Education Code Section 60851(c) permits local school boards to grant a waiver of the CAHSEE requirement to students with disabilities who take the CAHSEE using modifications and receive the equivalent of a passing score [conversely, accommodations do not prevent passing].

At the request of the students parent or guardian, a school principal must submit to the local school governing board a request for a waiver of the requirement to pass the part(s) of the CAHSEE on which a modification was used and the equivalent of a passing score was earned. For the local board to waive the CAHSEE requirement, the principal must certify that the student has met the following conditions:

1. An individualized education program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan is in place that requires the accommodations or modifications to be provided to the student when taking the CAHSEE.

2. The student has either satisfactorily completed or is in progress towards completing high school level curriculum sufficient to have attained the skills and knowledge otherwise needed to pass the CAHSEE.

3. The student has an individual score report showing that the student has received the equivalent of a passing score on the CAHSEE while using a modification.

Abbreviations and Terms

CAHSEE - California High School Exit Examination (used to determine 10th grade students meeting AYP AMOs for AMAO 3)

CAPA - California Alternate Performance Assessment (alternative to CST for students with severe cognitive disabilities; much easier than CST)

CDE - California Department of Education

CMA - California Modified Assessment (alternative to CST for qualifying Special Education students; much harder than CAPA but easier than CST)

CST - California Standards Test (for all students who do not qualify for the CAPA or CMA)

EL - English Learner (this includes all LEP students, as well as the R-FEP students who have not scored Proficient or Advanced on the ELA CST at least three times - not necessarily consecutive - since reclassification)

ELA - English-Language Arts (tested within the STAR Program for grades 2-11)

LEA - Local Education Agency (in most cases, this is akin to a school district)

NCLB - No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001

SBE - State Board of Education

STAR - Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR Program includes CAPA, CMA, CST, and STS and orchestrates EAP testing)