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Letter: Maryland asked to reject HS exit exam

October 29, 2007

Substance:

The following Fair Test press statement was issued today and might be of interest to your readers. FairTest (National Center for Fair & Open Testing)

for further information: Dr. Monty Neill (617) 864-4810 or Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773

For immediate release, Monday, October 29, 2007

NAT’L ASSESSMENT REFORMERS CALL ON MARYLAND BOARD OF EDUCATION TO REJECT PROPOSALS FOR HIGH SCHOOL EXIT EXAM; “GRADUATION TESTS HURT, NOT HELP STUDENTS, SCHOOLS AND SOCIETY”

The country’s leading assessment reform organization today called on the Maryland Board of Education to reject proposals for a “one-size fits all” high school exit exam. In a letter delivered to board members, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) wrote “More than two decades of evidence demonstrates that high school graduation tests are the wrong prescription for what ails public education.”

The FairTest letter continued, “In fact, such requirements damage the very groups proponents claim they will help. Across the county, misguided exit exam mandates have increased drop-out rates, especially among minority groups, and focused classroom teaching on test preparation rather than 21st Century skills.”

FairTest acknowledged that Maryland schools face serious problems including gaps in educational access, quality and outcomes. It noted, however, “[E]xams won’t cure these ills. For too many students, the cure is worse than the disease. Rather than provide better education and expanded opportunities, graduation tests add punishment - denial of a diploma - to those who most need help.”

The letter included data on increasing dropout rates in California and diploma denials in Texas after those states adopted high school exit exams. It also argued that high-stakes testing “undermines rather than improves education. Untested subjects are ignored, while tested topics narrow to test coaching programs.”

In Massachusetts, which Maryland exit exam proponents frequently cite, dropouts increased among minority and limited English proficient students after an exit exam requirement was adopted, according to statistics provided by FairTest. The problem was particularly severe in low-income urban districts. FairTest closely monitors the state because its headquarters is in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

As an alternative to the proposed graduation testing mandate, FairTest called on Maryland to follow the lead of states such as Rhode Island, Wyoming and Nebraska, which use multiple measures to award diplomas. “Other states have avoided the exit exam route specifically because they recognized the costs can outweigh the benefits,” the FairTest letter concluded.

The full FairTest letter to Maryland Board of Education members is online at http://www.fairtest.org/Maryland.pdf



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