Graduation Tests Do Not Work

K-12 Testing

FairTest Examiner - January 2008

Policymakers who impose graduation tests do so in the face of strong evidence those policies do not improve student learning or reduce dropout rates. A powerful report, "'Restoring Value' to the High School Diploma: The Rhetoric and Practice of Higher Standards" shows why the high-stakes testing approach to "improving" high schools has failed and will continue to do so.

Researchers W. Norton Grubb and Jeannie Oakes explain how standards and tests do not motivate students or teachers but instead undermine critically needed improvements in schools, particularly those serving low-income and minority-group youth. Proponents claim exams will make schools more "academically challenging," but testing fails to do so. The tests themselves are not intellectually substantive, and the incessant drilling to pass them reduces the quality of the curriculum. Meanwhile, the standards-tests-sanctions approach inhibits schools from taking steps to become more "relevant, equitable, and engaging," all essential aspects of ensuring improvement.

This brief should be mandatory reading for any policymaker considering the imposition of high-stakes testing.