Many States Shy Away From High School Graduation Tests
> 8/21/2006 9:54:59 AM

A new report from the Center for Education Policy laments the failure of many states to approve new versions of required testing for high school graduation. While two thirds of American public high school students must pass a test to graduate, only half of our states work with level-appropriate exams, and not one state opted to expand their testing practices in 2006.

Last week's dispiriting Washington Post article states that many of these tests require students to perform at only a tenth-grade level. In Idaho, the aptitude required for a passing grade is only equal to a dismal eighth-grade education. Many states also administer final exams but award diplomas regardless of performance. If this were not the practice, a large number of high school students simply would not pass. Strict standards, even very basic ones, can indeed result in academic and personal difficulties for thousands of students. In California, where educators firmly enforced existing requirements, more than 40,000 members of the 2006 class ended their senior years without a diploma. Many plan to challenge the state's school system in court.

It would seem obvious to the average layperson that students need at least a basic knowledge of english, math, and science in order to graduate. But the fact remains that a sizable portion of American kids do not have the aptitude to pass. Administrators in Utah planned to deny diplomas to failing students until they realized how many would not qualify. Are intelligence deficiencies among the student body responsible for such poor levels of performance? Critics argue that subpar school programs do not adequately prepare kids for these tests, pointing to the fact that  many who fail are poor and minority students. The twenty-five states who refrain from requiring this testing largely believe that they should be free to develop their own interpretations of academic performance, but if they continue to see declining rates of graduation, wide scale reform may become neccessary. The No Child Left Behind Act does not specifically cover graduation exams, but it probably should.

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