States Try Harder but Gaps Persist: High School Exit Exams 2005

States Try Harder but Gaps Persist: High School Exit Exams 2005

In its fourth annual report on state high school exit exams, the Center on Education Policy looks at the special problems facing English language learners in twenty-five states with current or planned exit exams. States Try Harder but Gaps Persist: High School Exit Exams 2005 (250 pages, PDF) argues that the test scores of students learning English, many of whom are immigrants, may not be valid or fair indicators of what they can actually do. For many, the time spent learning English impedes their progress on topics being tested. The percentage who pass the mathematics exit exam on the first try is 30 to 40 percentage points lower than overall initial pass rates; in reading, the gap is often greater. The report suggests that new strategies, such as reducing the complexity of the language used in the tests or accounting for cultural factors in scoring items, could help level the playing field. In New York and California, those who became proficient in English were more likely than students as a whole to pass exit exams and graduate.