- To: "Rich Gibson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Susan Ohanian" <email@example.com>
- From: "gerald bracey" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Mon, 7 Sep 2009 12:13:13 -0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)
- References: <email@example.com> <E1MkYCN-0007Fb-PX@elasmtp-scoter.atl.sa.earthlink.net> <4AA53F4D.firstname.lastname@example.org>
The following was submitted to the Bee a few minutes ago.
HIT THE ROAD, HIGH SCHOOL EXIT EXAMS
Gerald W. Bracey
In view of the heated discussion of the California High School Exit
Examination, it is important to know that, generally, this much we can say:
high school exit examinations don?t work and in some cases, they backfire.
States don?t gather information on the effects of the test because the
political risk is too great: Imagine voters? outrage if a study found that
a state had spent hundreds of millions on a test that did no good.
Yet, indications from various sources indicate that is the case?the tests do
no good. Reports from Massachusetts find that students who pass the exit
exam there are as likely to need remedial work in college as students were
before the test existed. We know from several pieces of research, most
particularly from an accidental experiment in California, that the test can
backfire. As in many states, a concatenation of fears, pressures and
agendas led to the adoption of the (CAHSEE).
Students took the CAHSEE annually starting in their sophomore year. The
CAHSEE was first scheduled to hit the class of 2004. Thus, the class of
2005 took the test as sophomores in 2003. However, after the 2003
administration, the California State Board had second thoughts, commissioned
a study and?ooops?was advised that the courts would likely throw out the
results if applied to the class of 2004. In other states, the study noted,
courts had overturned exit exam results when they judged that the test?s
sanctions went into effect too fast for the students to have been taught
what they were being tested on. You can?t punish kids for not knowing stuff
they haven?t been taught, the courts said.
The Board delayed the effective date of the CAHSEE until 2006. Thus the
class of 2005 first took the test as 10th graders in 2003 thinking they had
to pass it to get a diploma, but by the time they were 11th-graders in 2004,
they knew they were home free. The class of 2006 and future classes were
under the gun.
Researchers at Stanford looked at the achievement and graduation rates of
the classes of 2005, 2006, and 2007. They found that, as 11th-graders, the
classes of 2006 and 2007 scored no higher than the class of 2005. The
CAHSEE requirement did not improve achievement.
They also discovered that students in the classes of 2006 and 2007 who
scored in the bottom 25% of the test as 10th graders were substantially less
likely to graduate than similar students in the class of 2005. Remember,
when the class of 2005 took the test as sophomores in 2003 they thought they
had to pass, but later learned they didn?t. The mere imposition of the
CAHSEE requirement on the classes of 2006 and 2007 caused more students to
drop out. This is not, according to exit test advocates, how exit
examinations are supposed to work.
The impact was disproportionately large for minorities and for girls. This
is important because while it might be thought that minorities suffered from
attending lower quality schools, girls are distributed over all schools.
The researchers were also able to rule out that minorities and girls might
have been counseled into less demanding courses that didn?t prepare them as
well for the test.
Another group of researchers at the University of Minnesota tried to
determine if state high school exit examinations made the diploma more
meaningful to employers. The answer was a resounding ?no.? It didn?t
matter if the exit exam was relatively easy or tough. The Minnesota team
concluded, ?These examinations must be seen as a colossal waste of education
and human resources, harmful to those whose educational attainments are
curtailed by failing them and of little use to those who pass them.?
Instead of a do-or-die exit exam, the Superintendent of Public Instruction
and the State Board of Education might consider the ?body of evidence? route
in which many aspects of a student?s performance are considered, but no one
bit of evidence can alone keep a child from earning a diploma.
This actually would take us back to Alfred Binet?s approach to constructing
IQ tests. All tests in Binet?s battery had the same weight. A child who
scored high, say, on tests 1,2,3,4, and 5, but low on 6 would get the same
score as a child who scored high on tests 2,3,4,5, and 6, but low on 1.
Surely a group of educators could provide Caliofrnia?s education policy
makers a list of items that should be considered when granting a diploma or
not. Given today?s fetish for math and science, they might suggest that an
A in calculus be weighted more heavily than knowing when to use the
subjunctive tense in French although that would not be my choice. But low
performance on one particular item in the list could not prevent a student
from walking across the stage.
In any case, we can say without question that making any test an absolute
requirement for graduation not only doesn?t work as desired, it flops.
The author has a doctorate in psychology from Stanford University and a 42
year career in education. He writes monthly columns for the education
periodicals, Phi Delta Kappan and Principal Leadership and directed the
state testing programs in Virginia for a decade. His latest book is
Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality.
From: Susan Ohanian
Date: 9/7/2009 10:14:50 AM
To: Rich Gibson
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Subject: Re: Please join in the action! Respond to the Bee on the CAHSEE.
There is now a subscription feature to the
www.StopNationalStandards.org website. If you wish to receive
announcement of new items, you can sign up at "Mailing List."
I will limit the number of mailings, as circumstances warrant. My
website continues to have daily outrages and all that. I don't plan to
duplicate many of those. I want www.StopNationalStandards.org to
remain more action-oriented.
When I send out announcement of something added, I will only indicate
url for page on which it has been added. Additions are always at the top
of the page. Individual items do not have separate urls as they do on my
I realize there are too many categories on the site. The site is a work
in progress and I'm still trying to figure out what should be there.
For example, I had started the "Calendar." Then Rog suggested a chart
format and so we have "Action," the closest I can get to a chart. See
what you think, and e-mail me suggestions.
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