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ERIC Number: EJ767313
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-May-16
Pages: 2
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0277-4232
States Mull Best Way to Assess Their Students for Graduation
Gewertz, Catherine
Education Week, v26 n37 p1, 17 May 2007
Texas, which has helped shape key tenets of the standards and accountability movement, is on the brink of revamping the way it assesses high school students for graduation. Instead of testing knowledge that students accumulate over several years, the state would test what students learn in each course. A bill passed by the Texas Senate last month would replace the 4-year-old Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) at the high school level with 12 end-of-course tests in English, mathematics, science, and social studies. Students would take the tests as they completed each course. The measure could come before the Texas House of Representatives this month. The proposal signals a potentially important shift in thinking, and one that is gaining momentum. Of the 22 states that required students to pass an exit exam to graduate in 2006, four used end-of-course tests, and three more will do so by 2012, according to the Center on Education Policy, a Washington-based research group that tracks trends in high school exit exams. Texas' move, which would take effect with freshmen in the fall of 2009, would make eight states that use end-of-course tests. One aspect of Texas' proposed new system that has drawn both praise and skepticism is its "compensatory" approach: Students wouldn't have to pass every end-of-course test to graduate. They would have to average a cumulative score of 70 percent across the 12 tests, essentially allowing them to make up for weakness in one area with strength in another. This article compares exit exam systems in Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Maryland to evaluate the pros and cons of: (1) end-of-course tests which focus only on the content taught in particular classes, such as Algebra 1--if the tests are rigorous and aligned with course content, they can help guide and deepen instruction; (2) comprehensive tests which are typically aligned to a state's academic standards, but has been criticized for promoting mastery of too much material, with too little depth, requiring teachers to spend too much time on review; and (3) minimum-competency tests, which are on the wane and have come under attack for setting the bar too low, since they typically guage skills at the middle school level.
Editorial Projects in Education. 6935 Arlington Road Suite 100, Bethesda, MD 20814-5233. Tel: 800-346-1834; Tel: 301-280-3100; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Maryland; Mississippi; Tennessee; Texas