Revise high school exit exam

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 19, 2007

To the editor:

The student dropout rate in the state of Alabama is alarming.

Our state currently ranks 47th among states in student graduation rate.A recent report in Education Week magazine stated Alabama graduated only 59 percent of its students during the 2003-2004 academic year. This is well below the national average, just below 70 percent.

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Some individuals attribute the high dropout rate to the state’s inability to adequately fund public education.

Funding public schools has long been a problem in the “Yellow Hammer” state.

However, state school officials may wish to revisit the high school exit exam.

Throughout the nation, people are raising the issue that the exit examination’s requirements are pressuring students to dropout of high school.

Education policymakers in Alabama boast that the state has some of the nation’s highest standards for its exit examination.

But, we rank near the bottom in our graduation rate.

High standards do not automatically reflect quality.

Quality is built into the curriculum with mastery delivery by teachers, and when it meets the needs of students and society.

Standards should be attainable.

Researchers have not been able to conclude that high-stakes tests reduce or increase the dropout rate.

Obviously, if Alabama’s pupils continue their present dropout rate, test revisions should be considered.

It is evident that many intervention programs/strategies are ineffective.

A “high-stakes test” is a test that carries major consequences for the person taking it.

The repeated failure of large number of students to pass the exit examination and not receive a high school diploma causes disastrous consequences for the affected students and ultimately society.

Minority students’ dropout rate leads the nation.

Approximately, one-half of American Indian and black students graduated during the 2003-2004 school year.

Also, the administering of the exit examination by public schools has spurred some students to transfer to private schools.

Each year nearly 12,300 students in Alabama do not graduate with their peers.

The Alliance for Excellent Education said:

Dropouts from the class of 2006 cost the state more than $3.2 billion in lost wages, taxes, and productivity over their lifetimes.

If Alabama’s likely dropouts from the class of 2006 graduated instead, the state could save more than $245 million in Medicaid and expenditures for uninsured care over the course of those young people’s lifetimes.

If Alabama’s high schools and colleges raise the graduation rates for Hispanic, African-American, and Native-American students to the level of white students by 2020, the potential increase in personal income would add more than $2.1 billion to the state’s economy.

Increasing the graduation rate and college matriculation of male students in Alabama by 5 percent could lead to combined savings and revenue of almost $53 million each year by reducing crime-related costs.

In addition, the freshman challenge compounds the situation for high school educators.

The freshman year is the leading source of loss from the high school years in a majority of states.

Nationally, more than one-third of the students lost from high school fail to make the transition from 9th to 10th grade.

For every 100 students in the 9th grade, 90 will remain in school until their sophomore year.

But, only about 70 will make it until graduation four years later.

We must move expeditiously to curb the state’s dropout rate.

And, the root of the problem does not necessarily lie in the classroom teacher’s failure or inability to teach the written and tested curriculum.

Gerald Shirley


School of Discovery