High School Graduation Exams: A Rocky Path to Rigor

By Catherine Gewertz — January 12, 2010 1 min read
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As more national focus is placed on college- and career-readiness, more people are trying to figure out how high schools can do a better job of preparing students for what lies ahead and how best to measure whether they really are ready. We see this push unfolding on Capitol Hill, from new requirements for calculating graduation rates to guidelines on using stimulus money in secondary school, and in the states, 48 of which have promised to adopt new common academic standards.

In that spirit, tracking what states do to measure the success of their high school work is interesting and relevant. Increasingly, states are moving away from comprehensive exams that are too often pegged to middle-school-level skills, and adopting end-of-course tests as graduation requirements. (The Center on Education Policy has been tracking this trend and reporting in detail on how it’s going.)

A front-page story in The New York Times today uses Pennsylvania as an example of a state that tried to make the shift to end-of-course exams and bumped into a number of political obstacles along the way. The resulting compromise leads some to question whether Pennsylvania’s new system will demand any more high school rigor than the old one did.

The New York Times story takes a nice national look at the debate around high school exit exams. For more detail on how the process unfolded in Pennsylvania, see our stories and blog items here, here, here, and here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.