Stan Karp writes here that high school exit exams are useless and discriminatory. They should be abolished.

I’m inclined to agree. If a student has accumulated the credits she needs andpassedall the required courses, what is the point of an exit exam? If the exam is a standardized test, normedon a bell curve, the design of the tests condemns many students to fail, no matter what their high school record is. The failures will consist mainly of students with special needs, English language learners, and students who live in poverty.

Why not base graduation on performance in high school,rather than a standardized test that may have no relation to the curriculum?

Karp writes:

“In the last few years, 10 states have repealed or delayed high school exit exams. California, Georgia, South Carolina, and Arizona even decided to issue diplomas retroactively to thousands of students denied them due to scores on discontinued tests. Although 13 states still use exit testing for diplomas and policies are in flux in several others, the number is down from a high of 27 states during the testing craze promoted by No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

“There are several reasons for this retreat, including the research on exit testing, which clearly shows that exit tests don’t help the students who pass and hurt the students who don’t. They increase dropout rates and incarceration rates without improving college participation, college completion levels, or economic prospects for graduates in states that have them.”

Karp offers the horrible example of New Jersey, which is on track to make PARCC its high-school graduation exam, although it was not designed for that purpose and is certain to leave many students without diplomas.

He writes:

“Contrary to popular impression, there is no federal mandate requiring high school exit testing. Since No Child Left Behind was passed in 2001, federal law has required testing once during grades 9–12 in math, English language arts, and science. The Every Student Succeeds Act retains this mandate. But the decision to tie diplomas to the results of those tests is totally a state decision.

“There are real issues of inadequate preparation for many students leaving high school. But they are issues that standardized testing has helped create instead of solve. Test-based reform has undermined good education practice in numerous ways, narrowed curriculum, and wasted scarce resources.

“When I went to college many years ago, “college for all” meant demands for open admissions, free tuition, and race, class, and gender studies. Today it refers to bootstrap notions of individual preparation validated by test scores. Putting an end to high school exit testing would be a step toward expanding opportunity for young people and putting the focus back on the resources and supports needed to provide it.”