Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

How Changing High School Exit Exams Could Prepare More Students For College

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    Indiana plans to align end-of-course assessments with Common Core Academic Standards. Many states are creating more rigorous exams in hopes of increasing the number of students who are ready for college.

    End-of-course assessments — the tenth grade exams Indiana high school students must pass in order to graduate — aren’t a great predictor of success in college.

    But that could change when Indiana adopts Common Core academic standards and replaces end-of-course assessments with the PARCC exam in 2014.

    According to a recent Center on Education Policy report, many states are in the process of aligning their exit exams with college- and career-readiness standards, writes Jennifer González for the Chronicle of Higher Education:

    When states began to adopt high-school exit exams a decade ago, the focus was on ensuring that students were mastering state curriculum standards. But with the national push to produce more college graduates and a better trained work force, the focus has changed to include college and career readiness, says the report from the Center on Education Policy.

    In fact, 12 states responded to the center’s recent survey that one of the reasons that high-school students were required to take an exit exam was to prepare them for college or start a career. Only one state, Georgia, responded that way back in 2004, when the question was first asked by the policy center.

    The report found that eight of the 26 states that require end-of-course assessments are creating more rigorous exams in hopes of increasing the number of students who are ready for college-level coursework. About 60 percent of community college students currently require some form of remediation, writes González.

    As IDOE spokesperson Stephanie Sample told StateImpact earlier this year, college-bound students probably need more than a tenth grade understanding of math and English language arts. That’s why Indiana is one of ten states that plans to make exit exams more rigorous in the future by aligning them with the Common Core Standards. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia are on track to adopt the new academic standards by 2014. From the Center on Education Policy report:

    Nearly all of the states that are revising their exit exams as a result of the CCSS reported that these changes will make their exit exams more rigorous. This could have strong implications for the millions of students who will be entering high school in these states during the next few years. These students — some of whom are already struggling to meet the current, less rigorous exit exam requirements — will soon be expected to meet college- and career-readiness standards that are presumably more rigorous. There is a good chance that many students will fail to do so. Although high schools should be expected to prepare all students for col- lege and/or a career before they graduate, policymakers must ask themselves if these expectations, and the assessments used to measure progress toward them, should come with stakes so high they prevent some students from graduating from high school at all.

    About three-fourths of Indiana students passed the math and English language arts end-of-course assessments on the first try last year. Students are allowed to retake the exam if they don’t pass, but a number of districts still rely on waivers to boost graduation rates.


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