Here's a devastating indictment of the nation's high school exit exams, as featured in Newsday. I don't think anything in this report, though, will be surprising to some of my more involved Devoted Readers:
Many high school graduation tests don't measure whether students are ready for college or work, and some states haven't even made clear what the purpose of their test is, a study finds. Of the 25 states that have or plan graduation exams, only one, Georgia, says its test ensures students are prepared for higher education or work. Most of the states gear their tests toward 10th or 11th grade learning, and some gauge pre-9th grade skills, according to a study released Wednesday by the Center on Education Policy, a nonprofit research group.
With 20 states now withholding diplomas from students who don't pass tests in English and math, if not other subjects, the common assumption is that the tests measure college readiness, said Keith Gayler, the lead author of the report. That's wrong, he said...
The center takes no position on the tests, aiming instead to highlight what's working and what's not as state leaders weigh decisions. For its annual report, the center collected data from the states, reviewed research and convened a national panel on the tests' impacts.
I think Newsday's analysis is pertinent, although I disagree with their claim that the debates about exit exams are "quieting somewhat." As they note in the article, the total number of students who failed to earn diplomas because of test scores is hard to track in part because of the number of appeals (and the number of lawsuits, too.)
What's more, we're seeing more and more accommodations, such as those in Alaska that ultimately don't require a student to be able to read before being granted a diploma. Anyone who thinks that allowing students to have test questions read to them, or who are allowed use of a dictionary during an English, is a simple accommodation that doesn't change the nature of what's being tested is fooling themselves. The exit exams are easy enough to begin with, and these accommodations make it possible for virtually anyone to pass.
The report itself is a treasure trove of information, and it's well worth your time. One conclusion startled me:
While several states report conducting studies of the alignment of their exit exams to their standards, fewer report doing studies of the alignment of curriculum and instruction to their exit exam, and almost none report conducting studies on the impacts of their exit exam systems. We recommend that states undertake or encourage others to do studies of alignment between exit exams and curriculum and instruction and studies of the effects of their own exams.
Emphases mine. If schools are doing nothing to ensure that kids are taught what they'll be tested on, and whether the exit exams are holding back only those who truly need more time, no wonder the students and teachers don't like them. Memo to administators: This isn't a touchy-feely project in which you can convince us that there's nothing to measure. The studies are there waiting to be done, and if a diploma hinges on the results, you need to do them. Get over your anti-science bias and collect some data so you can validate the exams.Posted by kswygert at August 23, 2004 02:50 PM