Put this one in the "idea whose time has come" file: high school end-of-course exams. A decade back, when states such as Virginia started requiring them for graduation, it appeared the practice would take the nation by storm. Instead, it stalled for some reason (NCLB?)--until now. The Center on Education Policy reports that eight states will have end-of-course exams in place by 2012, and a bill that passed the Texas senate last month would make it nine. Nine states have also come together to offer a common Algebra II exam. Achieve president Michael Cohen explains the reasoning: "End-of-course tests can promote a level of consistency in content across courses, schools, and districts, and those tests can be a lot more rigorous." Of course, the devil is in the details; the tests need to be based on solid standards, for example. And their full potential won't be realized until states use the results for college admissions and placement decisions, as New York does--and as Cohen's American Diploma project urges. Still, when it comes to high school reform, end-of-course exams are a good start.
"States Mull Best Way to Assess Their Students for Graduation," by Catherine Gewertz, Education Week, May 16, 2007