NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Tests Are Not Creating More Dropouts

May 8, 2000

Opponents of new and tougher education standards are using the argument that subjecting prospective high school graduates to high-stakes tests is encouraging poorly-performing students to drop out of school. But the experts say there is no evidence of such a linkage.

  • Although New York City schools recorded a two-percentage-point increase in dropouts last year, experts says the explanation is more likely to be that youngsters are taking advantage of numerous job opportunities than that they are leaving to avoid pre-graduation tests.
  • The dropout rate in Chicago has actually dipped slightly over the past three years as officials put into place some of the toughest urban school reforms in the country.
  • Texas officials report that their dropout rate has remained steady despite putting new graduation exams into place.
  • Nationally, the Department of Education reports dropout rates are flat.

Proponents of higher education standards make the point that even if tough tests were propelling some students out school doors, the answer wouldn't be to go back to the days of low expectations. Rather, it is to continue to raise expectations so that a high school diploma is once again a certificate that actually means something -- that its possessor can read, write, calculate and exhibit other academic accomplishments worthy of a diploma.

Source: Editorial, "Phantom Claims Endanger New Graduation Standards," USA Today, May 8, 2000.


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