How Have High School Exit Exams Changed Our Schools? Some Perspectives from Virginia and Maryland

Center on Education Policy
June 2005

This moderately interesting 27-page pair of case studies of two anonymous school systems, one in Maryland and one in Virginia, tracks how they're changing in response to mandatory statewide "end of course" testing as a prerequisite to high school graduation. (Such a scheme is in place in Virginia, being phased in in Maryland.) Most significant is that non-trivial changes are occurring in what schools do, how teachers teach, and (to a lesser extent) how kids respond. This suggests that high-stakes testing applied to students does serve the intended purpose of altering institutional behavior on the part of their schools and educators. But not all of these alterations are salubrious, at least in the authors' eyes. An example of a positive change would be that "the district was playing a critical function in brokering services and supports to help prepare teachers and students for the exams." A less desirable change: "Some students and teachers complain that instruction has become too focused on reviewing discrete facts, with little time for discussion . . . and that some students are being left behind as teachers push ahead to cover all the topics. . . ." See for yourself. It is only, the authors acknowledge, a "brief, first glimpse," but it's informative and, for the most part, encouraging. You can find it here

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