NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 14, 2004

A study of high school graduation tests in Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey and Texas found that they largely test material taught in the ninth and tenth grades, and are as not as demanding as tests in other countries.

According to the study by Achieve Inc., a nonprofit education organization:

  • The tests measured only basic material and skills that are insufficient for student success in college or in jobs that pay above the poverty level.
  • In math, the skills tested on high school exit exams in the United States are taught in middle school in many other industrialized countries.
  • Exit exams won't be effective until the material tested is that which is actually taught in the classroom during the latter years of high school.

In Arizona, 84 percent of students who took the high school exit exam failed; the state continues to give the exams but has postponed making them a requirement for graduation until 2006.

Critics of high school exit exams say that one-size-fits-all tests aren't realistic for many schools, and that they're inherently biased. "All judgments about where to set the bar, where the cutoffs should be, and how much students should learn at any grade level are inherently subjective and political," says Bob Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

Source: Diana Jean Schemo, "Study Finds Senior Exams Are Too Basic," New York Times, June 10, 2004.


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