Effects of High School Exit Exams on Graduation and College Attendance in Alabama, Minnesota, and New York
In an attempt to make high school diplomas more than just a certificate of time spent in high school, some states have adopted high school exit exams (HSEEs) which require a minimum level of competence before a diploma is awarded. Under this system, in some grades a student must pass an exit exam before being promoted to the next grade or graduating from high school. Students and schools alike have a stake in the educational process, because shirking increases the possibility of a student not receiving a diploma or a school having a low graduation rate. The goal of HSEE standards is to motivate both students and schools and to give the high school diploma some value. I hypothesized that those students who face the pressure of passing HSEEs in high school will be less likely to graduate from high school due to the more rigorous standards. However, little evidence was found to support assertions that high school exit exams (HSEEs) have either a positive or negative effect on high school graduation rates, on-time graduation, or the likelihood of receiving at least some college education. A series of difference-in-difference models found few statistically significant HSEE effects. This is not unexpected, given findings in the literature which are mixed, very small, or not conclusive.
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