NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Exit Exams Improve Curriculum and Instruction

August 20, 2003

State high school exit exams have led to improvements in curriculum and instruction, reports the Center on Education Policy (CEP). But disproportionate precentages of minority, poor and disabled students and English language learners fail the tests.

  • In 12 states for which the report includes disaggregated performance data, African American, Hispanic, poor and disabled students and English language learners had lower pass rates than their white counterparts in every state in reading and math.
  • In most cases, pass rates were significantly lower.
  • The exams, which this year have denied diplomas to thousands of students nationwide, are now required in 19 states that educate more than half (52 percent) of all public school students and even more (55 percent) of minority public school students.
  • With five additional states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Utah and Washington) scheduled to phase in new exit exams over the next five years, exit tests will likely affect 7 in 10 public school students and 8 in 10 minority students by 2008.

The exams appear to have a positive impact on curriculum and instruction, and appear to encourage schools to cover more of the state standards and add remedial and other special courses for students at risk of failing.

Source: Keith Gayler, Naomi Chudowsky, Nancy Kober and Madlene Hamilton, "State High School Exit Exams: Put To The Test As More Diplomas Are Withheld & Gaps in Pass Rates for Minority, Poor & Disabled Students Persist, Pressure Builds But Most States Press Ahead with Exit Exams," Center on Education Policy, August 13, 2003.


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