State Updates: End-of-course exam trend continues

K-12 Testing

FairTest Examiner, May 2010

While most eyes have been focused on U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan dangling billions of federal education dollars to get state policymakers dancing to his tune, states continue to revise their own assessment systems, with changes afoot in Washington, Alaska and Texas. And a trend toward end of course (EOC) exams continues to grow, with 15 states planning to use EOCs by 2015.

  • In Washington, the controversial Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) test has been put to rest. State Superintendent Randy Dorn responded to widespread concerns about too much time spent on testing by implementing a new set of tests called the Measurements of Students Progress (MSP) and the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE). Washington 10th graders took the HSPE for the first time this spring. HSPE is still a graduation exam, but it will reportedly take five days rather than eight to complete. Students will need to pass reading and writing tests to graduate, but Dorn has been fighting to delay the use of the math and science tests as requirements from 2013 until 2015 and 2017, respectively. For students in grades 3-8, WASL has been replaced by the MSP. According to the state Department of Education, the MSP is also be a shorter test and will be moved online over the next few years.
  • Alaska legislators are considering eliminating the state’s high school graduation exam, in place since 2002. A bill to kill the test was approved unanimously by the Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee and now sits in the Finance Committee. A  February hearing before the Senate Education committee drew testimony from many parents and educators overwhelmingly opposed to the exam as a waste of time better spent on teaching and learning. Senator Bettye Davis, the bill’s sponsor, in response to the only testimony in favor of keeping the exit exam, said, "I can't believe this is the glue that's holding the system together. We're doing a disservice to our children."
  • TAKS, the Texas high-stakes exam that served as a model for No Child Left Behind, is on its way out, to be replaced by another set of exams called the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness. (TAKS stands for Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.) Based on legislation passed in 2007, this year’s eight graders are the last to take TAKS; next year’s class will be the first to take STAAR instead. The STAAR tests for high school students are part of a trend away from general exit exams and toward end of course exams that focus on what students learned in a particular class. There are 12 STAAR exams in four core subject areas (math, science, language and social studies) and they will count for 15% of a student’s grade in each course. To graduate, students must get an average passing grade on the three tests in each of the four core subject areas. Students in grades 3-8 will take STAAR tests in reading and math instead of taking the TAKS.

- See FairTest fact sheet on end of course exams at