Researchers with Stanford University’s Institute for Research on Education Policy and Practice found that the graduation rates of girls and non-white students have plummeted as a result of California’s high school exit exam requirement.
Looking at four California school districts, researchers analyzed the graduation rates and other data for kids who tested poorly (in the bottom fourth of all students) on standardized reading and math tests that they took earlier, in the eighth and ninth grades.
The study compared what happened to those low-performing students in the Class of 2005 — before the new graduation requirement took effect — with similar students at the same schools in the classes of 2006 and 2007.
The study found that girls and non-white students fared the worst as a result of the policy change. The graduation rates of the academically struggling black students and girls in the study dropped 19 percentage points after the requirement kicked in, compared to just 1 percentage point for struggling white students and 12 points for boys, according to the report.
Other findings? Little evidence that the high school exit exam is causing kids to drop out of school, as feared, or that it’s raising academic achievement, as hoped. It is, however, causing graduation rates to dip, overall. The study estimates that 3.6 to 4.5 percent of California students — up to 22,500 a year — don’t graduate because of this new policy.
State Superintendent Jack O’Connell, who championed the exit exam, quickly issued a news release in response to the study, saying:
… The heart of this report speaks to why I’ve called out California’s racial achievement gap and why I am so committed to implementing the14 recommendations made by my P-16 Council aimed at closing these gaps. The recommendations include the creation of a statewide strand of culturally relevant pedagogy and a culture survey of our students and education staff to discuss and address issues of unconscious racial bias in our schools.
I believe that the biggest mistake we could make is to view this report as a reason to lower our expectations for any student, but especially for our students of color and females. While reports like this call for us to redouble our efforts to improve instruction and effective interventions, I remain wholly committed to maintaining a high standard of expectations for all students. As a result, I have asked my staff and HumRRO, the CAHSEE evaluator, to conduct further review of the study so we can look for ways to better meet the educational needs of all students and help them succeed in school, on the CAHSEE, and in life.
But the report recommends that California “explore new ways to improve education and hold our high schools accountable for the academic achievement of their students without the negative and inequitable effects of the exit exam.”
Do you think California should keep this requirement intact? Does the study convince you otherwise?
photo from luminafoundation’s photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons