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Exit Exams Fuel Debate as States Examine Alternatives

Exit Exams Fuel Debate as States Examine Alternatives

High school exit exams lie at the heart of one of the most vigorously debated controversies in the high school landscape. These tests, introduced to verify that graduating students had mastered the core curriculum, also helped college-bound students prepare for postsecondary education. However, the test has caused far more complications than the test-takers and the administrators bargained for, suggests the Center on Education Policy.

Many states that require exit exams have adjusted their often strict stipulations to permit more latitude for students, according to CEP. The first-try passage rate in some states is between 70 percent and 90 percent, but is much lower in several states. White students and Asian students generally outscore Blacks and Hispanics on the tests, leading some to suggest that  the exams suffer from the same social biases that have plagued college admissions tests for decades.

“Test-makers try to make the tests neutral in content so that there is no bias in favor of more advantaged students, but, of course, poor students often are in schools which are not considered as good as those attended by more affluent students,” says Jack Jennings, president of CEP.

In order to boost pass rates, some states have increased funding for remedial courses and have offered students the option to substitute scores from standardized college admissions exams like the SAT and ACT or take an alternative assessment as proof of proficiency. 

— By Lelita L. Cannon

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