California’s High School Exit Exam doesn’t raise performance or worsen the dropout rate, concludes a new study by Stanford’s Institute for Research on Education Policy
While graduation rates dropped significantly because of the exam, students didn’t drop out of school in despair as predicted. Nor did the high-stakes test motivate the schools and students to do better academically than before.
Researchers found that low-performing female and non-white students did worse on the exit exam than low-performing white males. They blamed “stereotype threat,” the tendency for students to stress out when they face a negative stereotype about their ability, such as the belief that girls do worse in math.
However, bottom-quartile Asian-Americans have a lower pass rate than bottom-quartile whites. The prevailing stereotype about Asians is that they’re smart and ace tests.
On Ed Policy, Bill Evers raises that point and adds that the solution to negative stereotypes should be to teach students to meet the same expectations.
Without getting into my skepticism about some aspects of the stereotype-threat effect, let’s assume that it’s true or can sometimes be true. The need then is to accustom blacks and women to competition and challenges, and the potential would seem to be there for greater success when people have instead high, demanding expectations about blacks and women.
. . . Getting rid of the high school exit exam cannot be the solution. The solution has to be preparing low-performing students to pass the exam and telling them that their teachers, parents, ministers, and other community leaders expect them to succeed and will accept no excuses.
Going in the opposite direction, some California schools are using race-based assemblies to try to raise test scores, reports the Sacramento Bee.
The bleachers in the Laguna Creek High School gym were filled earlier this week with students gazing at an outline of Africa on a big screen.
Almost all of them were African American, called together for one of five “Heritage Assemblies” high school administrators organized to pump up kids for STAR testing this week.
. . . Students at Laguna could go to any rally they wanted, but the gatherings were designated for specific races – African Americans in the gym, Pacific Islanders in the theater, Latinos in the multipurpose room.
Some students and parents complained about the stress on race and ethnicity, including a mixed-race couple who’d “taught their children that skin color doesn’t matter.”
“My son texted me and asked me which one to go to,” said Tracy Houston. “He didn’t know where to go because I’ve never raised him to be black or white. … I tell my children they are part of the human race.”