Exit Exam Opposition Grows

K-12 Testing

States’ use of exit exams continues to attract growing criticism and resistance. A grass-roots parents group in Delaware raised a ruckus this spring over a proposed three-tier diploma system for high-school graduates. Members of the class of 2004 were to be the first to receive diplomas ranked as either “basic,” “standard,” or “distinguished.”


The parents group Advocates for Children’s Education decried the practice of giving out tiered diplomas based a single test score, regardless of students’ grade point averages and other evidence of their work and performance throughout their school careers.


Legislation to delay the three-tier system for two years passed the House and went to the Senate Executive Committee, where its fate is uncertain. Support for the system from Governor Ruth Ann Minner, a Democrat, has earned the ire of some parents, who say they will work to defeat her in the fall if she opposes the moratorium.


The Florida Coalition for Assessment Reform (FCAR) lobbied for and won a 40-0 vote in the state Senate in favor of a Truth in Testing bill, which would have given parents the right to examine their children’s graded FCAT exams (see www.fcarweb.org). A vote on the bill was blocked in the House, but FCAR vowed to revive the proposal in 2005.


San Diego, California students at top-ranked Bonita Vista High School refused to take the state test, saying the amount of standardized exams they were expected to take was “overwhelming.” More than 40 students initially threatened to boycott the Academic Performance Index tests, used to rate schools statewide. After pressure and threats from the principal, more than half agreed to take the tests, but 17 still boycotted. One of the boycotters, Caitlin O’Neill, a junior, pointed to the unreasonable amount of testing students must endure. “Whether other people view it as selfish or not, it is our personal and legal right to refuse,” she said. California law does allow students to opt out of the state tests with parental permission.


In Colorado, Don Perl is striking fear into the hearts of high-stakes testing supporters and those unwilling to rock the boat with a one-man campaign to eliminate the state exit exam, the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP). Perl, a former grade school teacher who now teaches Spanish at the University of Northern Colorado, gained notoriety when he refused to administer the CSAP in 2001. He is now gathering signatures to put an anti-CSAP measure on the November 2, 2004 ballot. Perl proposes that, in lieu of the CSAP, the state institute a program using local assessments, such as Nebraska has. State education policymakers acknowledge that parents are increasingly unhappy with the high-stakes exam and fear that Perl may reach his goal of 67,829 signatures by August 2.