CHSPE is a Bad Idea for Most Students


Caleb Crain, Editor-in-Chief

A few years ago, a former Pali student, who requested anonymity, started classes at Santa Monica College (SMC). But she never donned Pali’s cap and gown, walked the stage or accepted a diploma. Instead, she just walked away. This student had just finished her sophomore year. Instead of waiting to complete the customary four years of high school education, she decided to leave after just two, taking the California High School Proficiency Exam, or CHSPE, instead.

According to the California Department of Education, which administers the test, the CHSPE provides an opportunity to “earn the legal equivalent of a high school diploma.” The student says that she “was notified that [she] passed and received a certificate that’s basically [her] GED.” This certificate removed her “obligation to go to Pali,” she said.

According to information on the California Department of Education website, taking the CHSPE can “open up a variety of options” for students who “want to find and pursue new opportunities,” including attending community college and joining the workforce without a traditional high school diploma. However, while taking the CHSPE may work for select students, it’s an inimical idea for most Pali students.

Students who take the CHSPE and begin college early risk losing significant parts of their social life. The aforementioned student acknowledges this, stating that she lost touch with many of her friends after transferring to SMC. While this student explains that she knew some people at SMC, she says that “if you know no one, it’s going to be the most lonely two years ever.” The student hasn’t been able to stay in touch with her Pali friends, stating “I think sometimes they just forget [to include me in plans].”

In contrast, Arsham Mohammadi, another student who transferred from Pali to SMC after taking the CHSPE at the end of his sophomore year, said that while he has had troubles with his social life at SMC, most of his social life still revolves around people he met at Pali.

Perhaps the primary reason for this lack of a social life is the age gap between Pali students who take the CHSPE and their new peers. Mohammadi says that he has made friends who are older than he is but “can’t really go out with them to the places that they go.”

But this age gap continues as the students who took the CHSPE transfer to four-year universities, as both Mohammadi and the aforementioned student plan to do. While everyone their age will be starting as freshmen, these students, having come in as transfer students after two years of community college, will be college juniors. This limits students, who would be too young to engage in some of the social activities that his classmates participate in (at least legally).

So why do students decide to take the CHSPE? Mohammadi says that the multiple AP classes he was taking in sophomore year and the large amount of homework made him feel like he “was wasting my time in high school” when he could simply go to SMC. A common reason students take the CHSPE, according to Pali’s Assistant Principal and Director of Guidance and Academic Planning Chris Lee, “is to get an early start on community college and perhaps work.”

This philosophy completely fails to address what high school and childhood should be about.
High school, college and education in general is not an experience to be rushed. It’s to be appreciated. High school is the last chance for most people to experience the freedom of childhood before being tossed into the Hobbesian jungle of the real world. In high school, students are exposed to a broad range of subjects that lets them sample different topics they can further explore in college or careers.

But how can you be sure your choice is the right one when you only stop halfway down the buffet line?

And that’s not to mention the expansive opportunities Pali provides students who want to focus on a certain area. From aspiring entrepreneurs in DECA to potential environmental scientists in Envirothon to would-be gardeners in the Advanced Horticulture Club, Pali’s 100-plus registered clubs provide a place for everyone. And there’s nothing stopping a student from starting a new club, just as I did with Model United Nations as a sophomore two years ago.

But this isn’t to say that community college prevents people from advancing outside the classroom. The anonymous student said that he is working on creating a new company which he has large ambitions and has already secured certain commitments for.

But the anonymous student said that despite these endeavors, “I don’t think college affords me anything, especially community college” as far as future careers. While she may seem to be active as a student at SMC, her path is not one that most students should seek to emulate. Although only a small portion of Pali students take the CHSPE — Lee said no more than seven each year — this approach is silly and substandard.

Students will face the risk of losing a significant part of their social life, years of high school, and for what?

The CHSPE only serves as an escape, where kids are ultimately rushing through their childhood for a couple years of instant gratification.