Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
College & Workforce Readiness

Study Says to States: Don’t Rush; Provide Support on Exit Exams

By Sean Cavanagh — September 04, 2002 3 min read

As the nationwide popularity of high school exit exams continues to climb, a recent report contends that states have been lax in devoting money and services to students most at risk of failing the tests.

The report by the Center on Education Policy recommends that states delay for several years the consequences of scoring poorly on the tests, giving teachers time to adjust curricula and classroom methods to help students—particularly minority students—master the material on the tests. If states rush to attach high stakes, the report says, they risk seeing more students drop out of school.

Titled “State High School Exit Exams: Pass or Fail?” and issued last month, the study also concludes that black and Hispanic students are much more likely to fail the exit tests.

“To summarize this report, it’s ‘proceed with caution,’ it’s a yellow light,” said Jack Jennings, the director of the center, a Washington-based organization that advocates improved public school education. “It’s easier to demand rigor from students than to provide money to attain that rigor.”

Read the report, “State High School Exit Exams: A Baseline Report,” from the Center on Education Policy.

Eighteen states require students to pass such exams to graduate from high school. An additional six states are phasing in the exams, but are not currently denying diplomas if students don’t pass. The report warns that failures on the exams may lead more students to drop out, though it does not provide data showing a definite link between doing poorly on such tests and quitting school, Mr. Jennings acknowledged.

The percentage of students who don’t pass exit exams on their first attempt differs greatly from state to state. Between 9 percent and 69 percent fail mathematics tests, and between 5 percent and 42 percent flunk the English, or language arts, sections, according to the study. The broad disparities in failure rates, the center says, stem from both the varying levels of difficulty on the tests and how much time students and teachers have had to adjust to the tests since individual states adopted them.

In Indiana, 65 percent of students who took exit exams in the spring of 2001 passed the math portion of the test the first time they took it, the study found. But only 31 percent of black students and 46 percent of Hispanic students passed on the first try. And in Massachusetts, while 82 percent of all students in spring 2001 passed the English portion of the exam, only 59 percent of black students and 51 percent of Hispanics passed, according to the report.

No Waiting

Billie J. Orr, the president of the Washington-based Education Leaders Council, a group of state and local education officials, agreed that states needed to evaluate the results of graduation tests closely. But she disagreed with the Center on Education Policy’s conclusion that many states had not given students the resources needed for success. She also challenged the report’s argument that the tests should be implemented more slowly.

“I’m a little concerned about ‘phased in over several years,’” said Ms. Orr, quoting from the report. Her organization is a strong backer of standardized tests and helps state governments create and refine them. “It’s important that we move quickly and fairly.”

The center’s report says states should focus on providing students with remedial coursework, such as tutoring, summer school, and after-school programs.

Another supporter of exit exams, Matthew D. Gandal, a vice president of Achieve, a national group founded by governors and business leaders, said it is unfair to point to lower minority scores on exit exams as proof that the tests are putting those students at risk. If anything, the lower scores show the need for testing at earlier grade levels, so students who need extra help can be identified in time, said Mr. Gandal, whose organization is based in Washington.

Events

Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
The 4 Biggest Challenges of MTSS During Remote Learning: How Districts Are Adapting
Leaders share ways they have overcome the biggest obstacles of adapting a MTSS or RTI framework in a hybrid or remote learning environment.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Student Well-Being Online Summit Keeping Students and Teachers Motivated and Engaged
Join experts to learn how to address teacher morale, identify students with low engagement, and share what is working in remote learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Join us for our NBOE 2021 Winter Teacher Virtual Interview Fair!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago
Assistant Director of Technical Solutions
Working from home
EdGems Math LLC

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Documentary A Year Interrupted
When COVID-19 closed schools for millions of students, Education Week documented two seniors as they faced an uncertain future.
1 min read
College & Workforce Readiness COVID-19's Disproportionate Toll on Class of 2020 Graduates
The pandemic hit college-bound members of the class of 2020 from low-income homes much harder than it did their better-off peers, our survey found.
6 min read
Magdalena Estiverne graduated from high school this past spring during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is currently taking online community college classes.
Magdalena Estiverne graduated from high school this past spring during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is currently taking online community college classes.
Eve Edelheit for Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness Conflicting Messages Exacerbate Student Detours on the Road to College
Amid the many disruptions of the COVID-19 era, it’s more important than ever for educators to be consistent about the admissions requirements—and the costs—of college.
7 min read
Liz Ogolo, 18, who is attending Harvard University this fall, said the transition to college was difficult without guidance from her high school, which switched to remote learning in the spring.
Liz Ogolo, 18, who is attending Harvard University this fall, said the transition to college was difficult without guidance from her high school, which switched to remote learning in the spring.
Angela Rowlings for Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness Coping With Disruption at School and at Home
A 2020 high school graduate struggles to continue her education despite a disrupted senior year, a move to a new home, and spotty internet access.
3 min read
Magdalena Estiverne graduated from Evans High School in Orlando, Fla., this past spring during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Magdalena Estiverne graduated from Evans High School in Orlando, Fla., this past spring during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eve Edelheit for Education Week