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High School Exit Exams

"State High School Exit Exams: Trends in Test Programs, Alternative Pathways, and Pass Rates"

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The stakes attached to high school exit exams have risen since 2002, with 16 more states withholding diplomas from students who can’t pass them than did so that year, according to a new study.

More states also use high school exit exams for accountability under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, according to the Center on Education Policy study, released Nov. 5. Of the 26 states that require students to pass high school exit exams in order to graduate, 24 also use the exams for federal accountability, up from just two in 2002, according to the CEP.

Not all states use the same cutoff score to decide whether students pass the test as they do for federal accountability, however. Fourteen states use the same cut score for test passage and for NCLB, and nine use a lower score for passage than they do for accountability, the study found. (The cut scores in one state are under consideration.)

The study is the eighth in an annual series by the Washington-based CEP examining the use of high school exit exams.

It also examined trends in exit-exam pass rates in the 16 states that had three or more consecutive years of data, and found modest increases in the proportions of students passing their states’ exams.

The study found that 15 states plan to be using end-of-course tests instead of minimum-competency or comprehensive exams as their exit exams by 2015, up from five currently. Shifts in states exit-exam policies and alternate pathways to graduation for students who are unable to pass the exit exams are also examined in the CEP study.

Vol. 29, Issue 11, Page 4

Published in Print: November 11, 2009, as High School Exit Exams
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