(Oakland) Exit exams such as those proposed by Governor Davis prevent students of color from graduating from high school in disproportionate numbers according to a new report by the Applied Research Center (ARC). Data in the report suggest that such "high stakes" testing merely punishes students for attending substandard schools.
"Texas and Florida have already been sued for the racial bias of their exit exam systems. At this stage, advocating a policy that has been shown to enhance patterns of institutional racism is, in itself, a racist act," says Gary Delgado, Ph.D., Executive Director of ARC.
The report reviewed other states with exit exams and could find no evidence that exams have improved schooling. However, the report did note that racially-biased outcomes are already evident in Florida and Texas.
In Texas for instance, Mexican American and African American students make up 40% of all Texas seniors, but they represent 85% of the students who fail the final administration of the Texas high school exit exam each year. Teachers in Texas now report that they now spend a significant portion of the academic year preparing students for the exam.
The report notes that in U.S public schools the least prepared teachers are teaching the most disadvantaged students; the schools are overcrowded, segregated, and underfunded; and students of color are tracked for failure -- by seventh grade, two-thirds of all schools will have separated students by their "tested" ability, steering them into vocational, remedial, and low academic tracks.
Exit exams reflect this reality. Students who get a second-rate education will do poorly on the exam.
As FairTest Public Education Director Robert Schaeffer observes, "Believing that you can improve schooling with more tests is like believing you can make yourself grow taller by measuring your height."
The Applied Research Center is a public policy institute advancing racial justice through research, advocacy and journalism.