Multiple Measures for Graduation

K-12 Testing

In Multiple Measures Approaches to High School Graduation, Linda Darling-Hammond, Elle Rustique-Forrester and Ray Pecheone describe how 27 states use a combination of measures to determine graduation. The report demonstrates that it is neither necessary nor desirable to establish high standards by using a test.


Since the mid-1990s, the number of state's requiring a student to pass a test to graduate from high school has increased from 16 to 20, with five more expected to add exit exams by 2008. However, this means half the states still will not have a mandated high-stakes test. Among those that do, some award diplomas to students if they meet comparable standards through other methods.


Multiple Measures explains that the consequences of the single-test approach include: reduced graduation rates, especially for African-American and Latino students, English language learners and students with disabilities; incentives to push out low-scoring students; and narrowing the curriculum to focus on what is tested, while neglecting higher order skills.


The report recommends the use of multiple measures to overcome these problems while focusing on solid standards and outcomes. Use of a range of evidence of learning can ensure the teaching and assessment of a wider variety of skills, provide more useful information to teachers, counter the narrowing of the curriculum, and establish a fairer basis for decision-making.


While some of the states studied in the report have taken smaller steps, such as establishing limited exemptions from graduation exams, appeals processes, or a few optional tests, others are developing more comprehensive alternatives. Rhode Island, for example, will require students to demonstrate attainment of standards using several school-based measures; and districts may not weight the state test at more than 10 percent in the decision (Examiner, Winter-Spring 2003). Wyoming allows districts the option to combine the state test with locally developed "bodies of evidence" that demonstrate achievement; the state has supported local districts in developing these assessments. Connecticut leaves diploma-granting to districts, which must take state test results into account but cannot deny a diploma based solely on test scores.


The report includes a short state by state overview of the types of alternative approaches and an extensive appendix detailing each of the state's requirements.