A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Letter to the Editor: Lisa Guisbond of FairTest says exit test isn’t one of ways to ensure student success

There are many ways to ensure that Kentucky students graduate prepared to succeed after high school (“Wayne Lewis: The Kentucky high school diploma has to mean more; still much work to be done,” Nov. 28). Imposing an exit exam is not one of them. In fact, the track record of this approach is littered with failure.

The trend over the past decade has been to abandon, not embrace, graduation testing. Just 12 out of 50 states still use high school exit exams, down from a high of 27.

States have turned away from this policy because experience shows the tests don’t result in better prepared graduates. Instead, they tend to downgrade the quality of education by dumbing down curriculum to a junk food diet of test prep.

If the goal is to add value to high school diplomas, Kentucky should examine the research that shows exit exams do not improve employment prospects or readiness for college. The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences found in 2011 that such exams did not lift student achievement but did raise dropout rates.

Even more troubling, research confirms that graduation tests cause particular harm to the most vulnerable students. These include low-income, African-American, Latinx, Native American, English language learners and young people with disabilities.

Kentucky students need and deserve a well-rounded and engaging education to prepare them for life after high school. But the state must avoid adopting a counter-productive one-size-fits-all exit exam policy.

Lisa Guisbond
FairTest (National Center for Fair & Open Testing)
88 Governor Winthrop Road
Somerville, MA 02145

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