Tougher Grad Tests?

K-12 Testing

At a recent “education summit” convened by the National Governors Association and Achieve, Inc., which was created by the governors, a number of state leaders joined Achieve in calling for more difficult graduation requirements. This call built on an Achieve report, Rising to the Challenge: Are High School Graduates Prepared for College and Work?, which claimed that college instructors, employers, and recent high school graduates all wanted “more rigorous courses and higher expectations.”


The report made no mention of dropouts. Several recent studies show that the national graduation rate is under 70 percent and only around 50 percent for African American and Latino students. Many experts conclude that the minimum competency tests in many states have caused a modest decline in the graduation rate, but more difficult exams could substantially increase the dropout rate.


The professors and employers who were surveyed reported academic weaknesses in a variety of areas, including oral communication, understanding complicated materials, doing research, and producing quality writing. None of these areas are measured well by standardized tests. In reality, teaching to the test undermines teaching and learning in these areas or tends to eliminate the content from the curriculum.


Despite the danger to the graduation rate and the fact
that the tests won’t assess what Achieve claims to want, the organization remains a visible and vocal supporter of tougher tests.


• The report is available at The actual questionnaires are not available, making it impossible to know whether survey respondents faced leading questions, a limited set of options, or other flaws that could have skewed the results.