The Board of Public Education Partners is adamantly opposed to tying high school graduation to state-mandated standardized tests. Because the Ohio General Assembly created these new graduation requirements in 2014, nearly 52,000 seniors across the state in Ohio’s Class of 2019 are now at risk of not receiving a high school diploma.
Those projected numbers are simply unacceptable.
High school exit exams tie standardized test scores to high school diplomas, but sadly, they can push students who miss the mark out of school into the streets, the unemployment lines, and the prisons.
There are no federal regulations that require tying graduation to standardized tests – Ohio is one of only 12 states that mandate high school exit exams, down from a high of 27 that had or had planned such tests. The current number is the lowest level since at least the mid-1990s.
In the last few years, 10 states have repealed high school exit exams. Alaska, Arizona, California, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, and Texas even decided to issue high school diplomas retroactively to thousands of students who had previously been awarded “certificates of participation” because of their scores on state tests.
According to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), exit exams deny diplomas to tens of thousands of U.S. students each year, regardless of whether they have stayed in school, completed other high school graduation requirements, and demonstrated competency in other ways.
A review by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that high school graduation tests have done nothing to improve student achievement but have raised the dropout rate.
These tests give some students, who have worked hard, played by the rules, and stayed in school, the status of high school dropouts with the same barriers to future opportunities!
Adults without diplomas earn less, are less likely to be employed or have a stable family, and are more likely to be imprisoned, as exemplified by the phrase “the school-to-prison pipeline.”
Test defenders claim that end-of-course tests will benefit students with disabilities, English language learners, African American, Latino, and low-income students, but those are our children who are more likely to be denied a diploma for not passing the tests.
Test supporters say the exit exams “give value” to a diploma, but research shows the opposite is true.
Advocates of this test and punish system also insist that the assessments bring “increased rigor,” but no evidence proves that an increase in assessments can improve student performance.
A student’s transcript, not a test score, is what makes a high school diploma “worth more than the paper it’s printed on,” and it gives the most reliable picture of a student’s readiness for college and career. Two major studies confirmed that high school grades are much stronger predictors of undergraduate performance than are standardized test scores. The High School GPA remains the best predictor of college success.
Test scores should be only one part of a student’s high school record that includes credits earned, courses taken, activities, service, attendance, projects, and other indicators of academic accomplishment.
Requirements for earning a diploma should be based on evaluation by local school district educators who know the student best – not on state “cut scores.”
Last year’s 23-member graduation work group recommended that high school students who passed their required courses and took all seven state tests, regardless of score, could graduate if they met at least two of the six other requirements the committee created, and the State Board of Education concurred with its recommendations.
Public Education Partners is respectfully requesting that the Ohio Legislature do what’s right for the Class of 2019 and Ohio’s future high school students who are at risk of not receiving a diploma.
Our elected officials must pass House Bill 630 to extend the 2017-2018 alternative pathways to the class of 2019, and then seriously work on the process of eliminating state-mandated exit testing as a high school graduation requirement for the class of 2020 and beyond.