NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

More States Are Requiring Minimum Test Scores To Graduate

April 6, 1999

Last week, California became the 25th state to require high- school students to pass a test in order to graduate. The requirement applies to those who will be seniors in 2004. As of the 1997-98 school year, only 20 states had such a test-passing requirement to graduate.

Tests and standards vary among states which have an exit exam. Experts say California will be under intense pressure to set low standards. Also, testing has its share of opponents.

  • Some states hand out diplomas to those who score at only an 8th-, 9th-, or 10th-grade level, while others require 12th-grade performance.
  • While Louisiana requires 12th-grade performance, 60 percent of its college freshmen need remedial help.
  • Some 85 percent of students who fail Texas' exit exams are black or Hispanic, according to the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund -- which says the tests are discriminatory and is suing the state.
  • Most states let pupils take the test a number of times.

State policy-makers must decide issues ranging from whether tests should be multiple choice or essay, to whether to go easy on students with learning disabilities.

A number of experts think high-stakes tests should be combined with school choice.

Source: Anna Bray Duff, "The End of Social Promotion?" Investor's Business Daily, April 6, 1999.


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