Exit Exams to Graduate High School Graduation: Not best for Students

Exit exams are farcical. A written test can not accurately assess proficiency. This is my opinion but it can be backed up with data.

For a college project, I researched the correlation between states with exit exam requirements and falling high school graduation rates. In most cases, there is a positive correlation.

Some states have been successful using exit exams. High school graduates are more prepared for college and succeed in that environment.

Here again, college is not the only course for a successful future. Why has high school graduation become directly linked to college?

My sons took honors and advanced placement courses in high school because they knew they were college bound. The majority of students didn’t follow this path. Some of them were headed for college and some were not.

High school should be about educating the common man. Which is pretty much everyone. The required curriculum should prepare these students for adulthood in the United States of America.

Information Critical for Successful Adulthood

  • Read and understand a basic contract
  • Balance the checkbook (or bank account for the debit card driven economy)
  • Understand the way credit cards work
  • Basic understanding of human anatomy and how to maintain good health
  • Write a cover letter
  • Prepare a resume
  • Fill out a job application
  • Read and understand a voter’s pamphlet
  • Understand rental agreements and real estate sales documents/process
  • Understand the geography of the US and the World
  • Basic understanding of economics as it applies to daily life
  • Basic understanding of types of government and the important events in history
  • Use a computer to fill out applications and research information
  • Understand how to compare models of cars, appliances, etc.
  • Know the difference between interest rate and annual percentage rate
  • Build a budget

Information Useless for Most Adults

  • Math above the algebra level
  • Memorizing dates of battles and lists of presidents
  • Using complex chemical formulas
  • Writing five paragraph expository or persuasive essays
  • Dissecting literature for theme and symbolism
  • Understanding the difference between analogy and allegory and alliteration
  • Speaking a foreign language (although I do see how this knowledge could be beneficial)
  • Listing all the bones and organ systems in the human body
  • Being able to quote a Shakespeare Sonnet
  • Understanding Greek Mythology
  • And the list could go on forever

Sadly, most of the state tests (in Oregon) accentuate more from the useless list than the critical list. Why? Because of this huge push to look good in international statistics.

This might be a jaded assumption, but whenever I hear the president talk about education, he talks about competing on an international level. Translation: we need more math and science specialized schools and college graduates in scientific fields so we look good in international polls about education.

And I care about making the U.S. look good in education why? I want education to rise to the claims, Meanwhile, politicians push for higher standards for high school graduates, putting a high school diploma out of reach for many average students.

Another thing I despise about exit exams is that they are tests. Tests quite often don’t give an accurate representation about a person’s knowledge or skills.

I know so many kids (and adults) who have text anxiety. As soon as you say, “We’re having a test” they freeze and forget everything. Add the pressure of, “You can’t graduate from high school unless you pass this test” and what do you think the end result might be?

When’s the last time you took a test in the real world? If you have to get some sort of certification for your job, you had to pass a test. To get your driver’s license, you must pass two tests – one written and one demonstrative. Otherwise, most people don’t face down tests on a daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly basis.

The bottom line: what does a high school diploma mean? It used to mean that a person could read, write and perform math well enough to be literate. They would be able to read the ballot and understand how to shade in a certain box to signify their choice.

Traffic signs, contracts and newspapers were all easily accessible to these people. They could write well enough to fill out a legible job application and ask the credit card company to close their account.

Since when did a high school diploma mean: I’m ready for college? Does that even need to be considered in the scope of the average high school graduate?

What do you think about exit exams? Or having to pass a set of standardized tests in order to graduate from high school? Did I leave any essential skills off my list that you believe should be addressed?

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.