Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Exit Scramble

States that rushed to tie high school graduation to passing a high-stakes test now face pressure to come up with alternatives, even as critics warn against a dilution of standards.

By Michele McNeil

A decade-long push by states to make high school students pass an exit exam before getting their diplomas has stalled as politically sensitive student-failure rates contribute to a growing public backlash against high-stakes testing.

Though 26 states have adopted such mandates—most of them since 2000—that number has remained static since last year, according to a report scheduled for release this week by the Center on Education Policy, a Washington-based research and advocacy organization that has tracked the trend for the past seven years.

And for nearly a dozen states, compliance deadlines that once seemed far off have begun to bite, leading Arizona, Alabama, Maryland, and Washington, among others, to soften their mandates by offering alternative paths to a diploma, or by also weighing factors such as a student’s grade point average.

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