States wimp out on exit exams

States are wimping out on graduation exams, write Checker Finn and Liam Julian on Education Gadfly.

Our attention was seized by Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, who days ago signed into law a bill that weakens her state’s exit exam requirement by allowing high school students who don’t pass the AIMS test (thousands don’t) to supplement their meager scores with good grades. The legislation’s justification resides in the statements of students such as Maria Cami, an 18-year-old who maintains a 3.2 GPA but does not, by her own admission, understand math. “I feel like I’m being penalized for something I’m not good at,” said Cami.

Cami believes a high school diploma is an entitlement.

How did she pass her math classes?

Several other states are weakening their requirements, worried that low scorers will give up and drop out.

Gadfly offers ideas to encourage students to complete high school, such as alternative paths to graduation and an end to the “college-or-bust” mentality. The kicker: “Don’t make promises or threats that you don’t intend to keep.”

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  1. Penalized for something she’s not good at? She’s not all that swift with English, either. Her “good grades” are probably the result of handing in crafts projects.

  2. thaprof says:

    Governor Napolitano is simply trying to help out a key component of her political base: the dumb.

  3. > How did she pass her math classes?

    When you test people all the time, people learn how to pass tests instead of learning the subject matter.

    That’s why you shouldn’t test all the time, and why tests are not a reliable measure of achievement.

  4. Kate said, “Her “good grades” are probably the result of handing in crafts projects.”

    No, her good grades are much more likely to be the result of rampant grade inflation at all levels of education.

  5. I’d love to know which states “test all the time”. My 7th grader had two sets of standarized tests here in Georgia: ITBS in Fall and state CRCTs in the Spring. I don’t think this is enough… testing more, not less, is the way to go. De-emphasize the one-shot mentality of testing so that students learn that testing can measure your progress.

  6. Life's Managers says:

    Dear Miss Cami,

    You are being penalized for your not being good at something. One might even say that it is the nature of penalties that they are issued in response to failures. People go to jail for moral failures; people receive fouls in sports for impulse control failures; bankers get fired for mathematical errors.

    If you feel so strongly about your being penalized for your failures in the field of mathematics, perhaps you should abandon this “high school” thing and try something more suited to your talents, whatever those are.


    The Management

  7. Catch Thirty-Thr33 says:

    What is sad is that even if states DO stand firmly by their “graduation exams”, you will see the same phenomenon I do every year at this time in TX: whining and crying parents and students, demanding the RIGHT (after all, the high school diploma and graduation ceremony are birthrights in this country, are they not???) to get a high school diploma and participate in that most grossly overrated of life’s events – high school graduation – with their friends.

    The states cannot win. Enforce standards, make graduations MEAN something, and put up with whining anc crying parents and students (who vote). Don’t enforce standards, they will ALL be made SO HAPPY – but the entire purpose of schooling flies out the window.

  8. As a partial step towards a solution, how about working on a way to rein in the rampant proliferation in graduation ceremonies? “Commencement” events for completing every grade serve both to trivialize the significance of real milestones, and to magnify the pressures for grade inflation and relaxing standards to avoid forcing people to live through the shame of not participating.


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