Graduation Test Update: States That Recently Eliminated or Scaled Back High School Exit Exams (Updated June 2017)

Graduation Test Update:

States That Recently Eliminated or Scaled Back High School Exit Exams

The number of states requiring high school graduation exams in language arts and math has significantly shrunk over the past few years. Thirteen states have graduation tests in place for the high school class of 2017, down from a high of 27 that had or planned such tests. The current number is the lowest level since at least the mid-1990s.

According to extensive research, exit exams have harmed tens of thousands of youth but not improved the outcomes of high school graduates. (See

Listed below are states that have still have exit exams, have suspended their graduation exam requirements, plan to implement new tests, or have granted retroactive diplomas to students who failed the test but completed other requirements.

States that have graduation tests for the high school class of 2017: Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, a total of 13. Some allow appeals or alternatives. This list includes states where students must pass end of course tests (EOCs) in order to graduate.

Recently ended grad tests:Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

Moratorium on exit exams:California (2018); Nevada (must take, need not pass until class of 2019); Pennsylvania (2019).

Retroactively awarded diplomas to students who had not passed exams:Alaska, Arizona, California, Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas. Mississippi has an appeals process allowing students who did not pass the previous exit exam to receive diplomas. South Carolina allowed those who did not pass to appeal to their local school boards through the end of 2015.

Recently reduced number or weight of tests:

·         Mississippi requires minimum test scores, though somewhat low test scores can be combined with higher grades to allow graduation.

·         Tennessee replaced its graduation test with end-of-course (EOC) tests that factor into student course grades but which students do not have to pass. Other states such as North Carolina have similar requirements.

·         Texas reduced its plan for 15 required exit tests to five in 2013, then added the right for students to use an alternative for up to two of the five if they fail them.

·         Georgia ended a graduation test but now requires students to take some end-0f-course tests to graduate; they must count at least 20% of the course grade and districts may make that higher.  

·         Indiana in 2017 passed legislation to allow multiple pathways to graduation in addition to end-of-course tests. Many if not all the pathways will involve other standardized tests, but the details have not been set.


New civics test graduation requirements: The Education Commission of the States (2017) reports that since 2015, 8 states have made passing a high school civics exams modeled on the 100-question immigration citizenship test a graduation requirement: Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota and Utah. Many exempt students with disabilities and sometimes other students. Not one of these states requires students to pass any other tests to graduate. Seven other states require students to take but not pass the test. In this period, 18 states rejected bills proposing such a law. Some reports say nearly every student passes the multiple-choice exam.

Scheduled to implement new tests:

  • Colorado, Class of 2021; will be a series of test/assessment alternatives, from SAT or ACT to district options that may not have to be a test.
  • Connecticut, Class of 2021; students will have to reach a passing score on the SAT, but the state plans to allow alternatives.
  • Maryland in 2016 requires only HSA in biology, but in 2017 will require two PARCC tests, biology and state government exam.


Sources:Materials from and correspondence with Jennifer Zinth from Education Commission of the States; Hyslop, A., 2014, The Case against Exit Exams, New America Education, Policy Brief,; news clips; state websites; and Education Week. On civics exams, see

No one organization systematically reports on graduation exams. Please send updated information to us.

- September 2017

See a PDF of this Fact Sheet: "Graduation Test Update: States That Recently Eliminated or Scaled Back High School Exit Exams"

See also the Updated 2017 Fact Sheet: Time to Abolish High School Graduation Tests

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