The picture is said to be bleaker for the so-called ELL (English Language Learner) students, which is 20 percent for African-American students and 16 percent for Hispanics. Among all the states, California has the highest population of such minority students, followed only by New York (Garcia, 1991), such that a big proportion of graduates from California’s public high schools is unfit for college. To erase this blot in the state’s educational landscape, the state legislature enacted the California High School Exit Exams (CAHSEE) in 1999, which was implemented on a voluntary basis in 2001 for the high school students scheduled to graduate in 2004. From that time until the exit exam was made mandatory in 2006 as a requirement for the graduation of all public high school students, the program has been hounded by controversy. So far, two class-action suits have been filed against state authorities alleging that the exit exam is arbitrary and impracticable. .
The California High School Exit Exam is one of many state-specific educational schemes given impetus by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which was enacted by the national legislature in 2001 to reduce the dropout rates and narrow the perceived achievement gap among high school students all over the US. A priority concern of NCLB is the increasing number of special education students who lag behind in academic achievement because of physical and cultural handicaps. Students with physical disabilities and those with ethnic roots, that altogether comprise 35 percent of the public high school population in California (Greene &. Winters, 2004), have the .highest dropout rate and the lowest ranking in academic achievement and expectations because of poverty and lack of language skills.