A Ticket Out of High School?

The benefits of CHSPE testing and why students want to take this exam

Mercedes Ayala

Staff writer

    When students hear their teacher announce the date of an upcoming test, they often immediately think about how they’re going to pass and what to study. Though testing usually seems like an evil act that brings pain to students, that is not always the case. In particular, there is an optional test that can be beneficial to many California high school students.

    The California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) is a testing program through which a student can earn a legal equivalent to a high school diploma. There are two sections students must pass in order to receive their certificate of proficiency: mathematics and language arts. The language arts portion consists of a reading section with a total of 84 questions and a language subtest composed of a total of 48 questions and one writing task. As for the mathematics section, there are a total of 50 questions with several categories. To pass mathematics, you must earn a score of at least 350.

   Memuna Desai, a sophomore who has high goals in life, plans on achieving those goals early. She has taken the test and plans to leave high school to start her career in the medical field. Desai explains, “I was inspired to become a doctor from a young age because I viewed it as an occupation that would help [people who are] suffering illnesses… I wanted to get ahead of my peers mostly because I want to start studying my career early so I can become a doctor [more] quickly.” Desai is determined to be a step ahead of others. Her plan is clear: skip junior and senior years to start college and blossom from there. She explains, “I plan to attend community college, most likely Chabot, and then transfer over to a four-year university.” Desai first came across the idea of skipping the last two years of high school through her cousins, who also took the test to start their careers early. “Two of my cousins took the CHSPE before me and, as a result, are ahead of their peers in high school. Also, there are a couple of others [whom] my parents knew who took the test.”

    While Memuna Desai has her future planned, Anna Kelly a junior has just started her journey to live an independent life. Kelly says, “ I decided to take the CHSPE because I felt it was more beneficial to me and what I wanted to do with my life.” Kelly plans on keeping her current job and then transferring into a community college. “I’m going to continue on my road with Starbucks as I start in community college, and then transfer somewhere else and become a dental hygienist.” Kelly also sees CHSPE testing as an opportunity to start life earlier than others, commenting, “School isn’t for everyone, so I feel like [testing out] benefits me. This just allows me to get started on my goals earlier in life instead of wasting time.” For Kelly, the CHSPE has helped her get closer to her career.  

    Aside from students taking CHSPE to start a new chapter in their lives, CHSPE also has other benefits for students. The best person to talk more about this is the counselors. Ms. Ronkainen explains other benefits from CHSPE: “There are a variety of reasons students might wish to take the exam; they may have a need to work to support their family and leave school early, or they may have been homeschooled and feel ready to attend college. Some students may fall behind in credits, and because graduation is unattainable, they will study for the CHSPE to move on to work or school. Some students have a hard time in high school and stop coming. If they have the skill set, the CHSPE can be a good option.” Not having enough credits to graduate might be an issue for some students, and the CHSPE can be the solution to those students who are struggling to move on from high school.

    Although CHSPE is offered to all, it also has some drawbacks to it. Ms. Ronkainen goes on to explain, “If a student is going from school to work, there are some employers who are not going to be as impressed by a CHSPE as they would be by a regular diploma. The application may not ask outright if you graduated, but in an interview, it could come up.” She also explains how this might affect those who intend on moving out of state. “The CHSPE is only recognized in California, so if someone moves to another state, they cannot say they have a diploma equivalent.” Ms. Ronkainen also explains what alternatives students take to resolve this. “Sometimes, students will take the CHSPE to move on from high school, but then later take the GED if they plan on moving out of state.”

    Overall, CHSPE is an option for those who have a concrete plan or for those who need this exam to make it through high school. It is also an alternative for those who might not have enough credits to graduate; with this program, they can focus their time on passing CHSPE and receive the certificate of proficiency. If you are not 18 years of age (or older), a parent or guardian must sign for you granting you permission to stop attending school. High school is not for everyone, but CHSPE can be a logical alternative solution.

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