Opinions vary on high school exit exams

By TIM GETER,

Thirteen states, including Mississippi,  give accountability graduation tests, commonly known as exit exams. These tests consist of language arts, math, science, and history, and although some local educators believe the tests are necessary, at least one area lawmaker believes they should be abolished.

According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, “The number of states requiring high school graduation exams in language arts and math has significantly shrunk over the past few years, down from a high of 27 that had or planned such tests. The current number is the lowest level since at least the mid 1990’s.”

 There are those who outspokenly are for the exist exams only to note that accountability is their main concern. Forest High School Principal Kim Shoemaker is one of those. “As a principal in a public high school I am for exit exams,” she said. “I believe that students should be held accountable for what they have learned if schools and teachers are going to be held accountable for what they teach. If we do not ‘hold their feet to the fire’, what is the motivation for a high school student to try their best on a state assessment? How would making this change affect the accountability ratings of the schools and districts if the students’ scores did not matter for them, just for us.”

As for as accountability Representative Tom Miles said that for the second year in a row, he has filed a bill to abolish all the statewide testing used as exit exams for our students and replace this testing with the ACT test.

“We all recognize that public school teachers feel the need to ‘teach to test’ because theirs and their school’s ratings are directly correlated to their students’ performance on these tests,” Miles said.

So, why not use the ACT instead of state mandated exit test? This way all focus goes to ACT prep, leading to money for the student and scholarships if he or she does well on the ACT, making it a valuable incentive to pass the test not only to graduate but move on to higher education.

Scholarships, help low income families and if a student knows that he or she is accountable for passing a test that in turn could lead to a scholarship  — money for school —  then what more motivation should one want. Dr. John Mark Cane, Deputy Superintendent of Scott County Schools, said, “We already have the ACT Aspire program in place. Using the ACT would also be a significant cost savings.” He also added that, different ways of utilization takes away the scatter shot and brings more focus to preparing for the ACT.

Using and preparing for the ACT could not only encourage students to strive for scholarships and to make the eligible grade on the ACT to graduate, but could also  save the taxpayers of Mississippi and Scott County money. Over $40 million dollars a year, according to Miles, is what it costs for these other graduation exams or exit exams. “The ACT is already being paid for the students,”  Miles said. “The state pays for all juniors to take this test. Using the ACT will drastically curb the test-taking industry that takes valuable taxpayer money to continue the mandated programs.”

Miles concluded that, being able to do away with the English, science, math, and history exams could lead not only to saving a large portion of money for the taxpayers but also filling in other gaps in education that needs a great deal of attention.