Diplomas Denied as Seniors Fail Exit Exams

Published September 1, 2003

If students can’t pass a test on what they are supposed to have learned in school, should they still get a high school diploma?

This spring, thousands of high school seniors across the country weren’t awarded a high school diploma, because they failed to pass their state’s exit exam. Lawmakers in states such as California, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, and North Carolina have instituted the high-stakes tests to ensure graduates are competent in basic skills, but now they face pressure from angry students and parents to delay or scrap the tests. Students say the tests do not reflect the curriculum covered in school.

“[T]he stuff on the test doesn’t equate to anything that I’ve learned in school,” 18-year-old Robyn Collins of Sparks, Nevada, protested to the Washington Post. A student with a solid academic record and a 3.0 grade point average, Collins had just failed on her fifth attempt to pass the math portion of the state’s exit exam.

Students must answer only about 61 percent of the multiple-choice questions correctly to pass, and test proponents say exit exams in general are easy enough for the vast majority of students to pass.

Officials in seven school districts in Massachusetts said they would defy state officials and award diplomas even if students had failed the state’s exit exam. In Florida, protesting community leaders called for a boycott of the state’s lottery, major theme parks, and the citrus industry.

Source: Washington Post, May 31, 2003

Sample Questions from High School Exit Exams
Could you pass a high school graduation test? Check out the sample questions from high school exit exams at the following Web sites:

All states http://edservices.aea7.k12.ia.us/curriculum/math/stateitems.html

Florida FCAT http://www.firn.edu/doe/sas/fcat/pdf/fc0mib1r.pdf

Massachusetts MCAS http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/testitems.html