Do high school exit exams hurt graduation rates?

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Some time ago (Feb. 1, 2010), I was looking through an edition of the USA Today and ran across two opposing opinion editorials written about high school exit exams.

One of the positions took the argument that some states are guilty of watering down standards to increase the number or percentage of graduates. The opposing view argued that a high school diploma shouldn’t rest on the performance of a single high-stakes test.

There was an interesting map accompanying the USA Today article that clearly showed that (when compared to other data), as a general rule, the states with graduation type tests had higher rates of school dropout than states that did not have graduation tests. Furthermore, every southern state had some form of exit exam while a big block of the Midwest did not require such exams.

In Georgia, a high school student must, in addition to performing well enough on End of Course Tests to pass individual course, must pass five content related graduation tests in the areas of Math, English, Science, Social Studies, and Writing. Failure to pass any one of these tests means that (generally speaking) you don’t get a high school diploma and end up as one of the “drop-out” statistics plaguing our state. Oh, yes, you get multiple opportunities to re-learn, prepare, and re-take the tests, but the truth is there are some students who have passed all of their coursework but fail to pass one of the tests.

I have friends who argue that any student should, if they work hard enough, be able to pass all of the exams Frankly, I’ve seen some fairly hard working students really struggle with these exams over the years. I am not really aware of the actual numbers who fall into this category, but anecdotally I can assure you that it happens.

For purposes of our blog, what do you think?

Should we have both End of Course and Graduation Tests for students?

Should there be a provision or modification allowing for a student who passes, lets say, four of five of the exams to graduate?

Is there another solution?

Thank you for your comments. I truly enjoy the dialogue and ideas generated in our “conversations”. Meanwhile, Happy Blogging!

For more blogs by Superintendent Evans, visit www.forsyth.k12.ga.us.