More Testing in High School

Another Gewertz goodie (two this week) summarizes a CEP report on high school testing–in short, there’s more.

In its ninth annual examination of high school exit-exam trends, issued today, the Center on Education Policy analyzes a handful of intertwined trends that, taken together, suggest a net increase in testing is taking shape for high school students. [See my story on the report on EdWeek’s website.]

One of the center’s findings, for instance, is a steady increase in the number of states using an exit exam (some kind of test students must pass in order to graduate). Indeed, it finds that three-quarters of the nation’s high school students now live in exit-exam states. Only half did when the CEP did its first exit-exam study in 2002.  Trend lines also point to another thing: More states are using end-of-course tests—tests that cover the material contained in only one course—rather than comprehensive math-and-English exams that might cover years of material.

Near term, the critical issue (as outlined in a great iNACOL report on competency-based education) is that end-of-course exams must be given on demand (or frequently scheduled) to support individual progress models.  This requires that the exams be online, which requires that states plan for high-access environments that eliminate the access argument.
Longer term, states need a flexible assessment framework that incorporates the flood of data to come from content-embedded assessment.  Paper and pencil bubble sheet tests will seem wildly obsolete to kids that grow up learning on netbooks with games, sims, and online performance challenges.

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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