NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

High Schools Need Exit Exams

September 16, 1999

In a back-to-school address, U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley reversed his long-standing opposition to high school exit exams, which require students to show what they know before graduation. He now favors the tests, which half the states have or are developing.

Riley made recommendations for improving high school performance, in particular:

  • High schools should improve academic rigor, says Riley, to reduce the college dropout rate -- almost half of college freshmen drop out by the end of their second year, and to reduce the number who have to take remedial courses -- about 30 percent of students entering four-year colleges.
  • They should set a goal of having 75 percent of students take tough courses -- just over half do so now.
  • Every high school should offer Advanced Placement courses -- today 49 percent do so, and only 10 percent of students take them.

The United States will need 6,000 new schools in the next decade, says Riley, including new high schools to accommodate an additional 1.3 million high school students. He estimates there 53 million children in public and private schools this year, including 14.9 million in high schools.

Source: Tamara Henry, "6,000 More Schools Needed within 10 Years," USA Today, September 16, 1999.


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