The Case Against Exit Exams

Twenty-one states will continue administering exit exams in ELA and math while transitioning to the higher standards, we learn from this new policy brief from the New America Foundation’s Anne Hyslop. Ten of these states plan to replace their current exams with new PARCC or Smarter Balanced tests. This could be a disaster, she argues, unless states grapple with the consequences of shifting to the significantly tougher tests that are about the augment the significantly higher standards. (The passing score for most exit exams is currently set at the eighth grade level; if states shift the standard to true “college and career readiness,” huge proportions of students will flunk.) Hyslop points to Washington State as offering a “model transition plan”: The class of 2014 will have to pass the old exam and an end-of-course math test. The classes of 2015 and 2016 will have the option of using the old test, a specially made “bridge” test, or the new Smarter Balanced test. The classes of 2017 and 2018 will have the option of the bridge or the new test. And all subsequent classes will need to take the Smarter Balanced test. Now is the time for other states to put similar plans in place.

Anne Hyslop, “The Case Against Exit Exams,” New America Education Policy Brief (Washington, D.C.: New America Foundation, July 2014).