American high schools are famous all over the world: they are rightly recognized as the best forges of talented students. Educational programs cover the entire spectrum of human knowledge – from natural sciences to the humanities. However, there are no national education programs in the United States. To determine the quality of students’ knowledge, the system of national tests is used. These exams are the same for the entire country and are passed by students from fourth, eighth and twelfth grades. Compulsory final exams for graduating high school are passed only in half of the US states. List of items on which knowledge of American graduates is tested varies depending on the requirements of local authorities. In recent decades, there have been conducted discussions on application of graduate exams and their effectiveness.
Exit exams are used to estimate students’ achievements before their graduation from high schools. Since the 1970s, graduate exams have been used in America in various forms. The exams represent standardized tests that are aimed to make high school diplomas more important and meaningful in future students’ lives. Despite this primary purpose of exams that is intended to help students, there are particular disadvantages of graduate exams.
Firstly, there are certain factors which can influence test scores. According to Hurst, “Standardized test scores are greatly influenced by non-academic factors, such as fatigue and attention”. There are negative effects on students’ psychics: sometimes even not a failure but a fear of failure forces students to drop out of school. Many students experience anxiety before testing. This factor actually lowers exam scores. Most seriously, the fear of examinations affects non-achievers. This, in turn, hits poor families. Most poor pupils grow up in poor families. Refusal to school diploma sharply narrows their opportunities in adult life.
Exit exams are considered to be unfair in relation to students with specified needs. Students from low-income families, with limited knowledge of English or learning disabilities face difficulties while taking graduation exams.
Moreover, exams have psychological impact on educators. There is pressure on teachers from government that is related to preparation for exit exams. This can result in the decrease of innovation and creativity. Moreover, graduation exams enforce students’ external motivation which can overshadow their inner pleasure of learning process. As a result, students begin to associate education with negative experience. Instead of sincere interest in school process, they simply memorize information and rules without paying attention to analyzing meaning of significant concepts.
Exit exams are considered to be unfair method of determining whether students should receive diplomas. Many students study well throughout high school and show high academic performance. This should be sufficient to graduate from high school. A single exam should not determine children’s future.
In addition, there is no need of basic skill test to graduate from high school because conducted tests often do not reflect the real picture of their knowledge. At the same time, American graduates pass the standardized tests for admission to the first year colleges and universities in America without exception. However, exit exams deprive many students of the possibility to graduate. Moreover, teachers face a need to narrow lesson plans for providing exams. They have to prepare students for tests instead of teaching new material. As tests assess general knowledge of students, educators have no opportunity to use test results along with their methods of individual instructions. As a result, they begin to teach pupils how to pass the tests instead of focusing on the school curriculum or individual approaches.
It was found that “Many schools had cut way down on subjects like art, music and history since high-stakes testing started” (Munoz). It is noteworthy that students usually pass test not before the graduation but a year earlier. During the year, a few dates are appointed to test high school students. Generally accepted tests include Math, English and critical reading. In addition, students can take subject tests in one or more school subjects, including chemistry. However, school subjects that are not related to language and Math can be negatively influenced by graduate tests. Therefore, such school subjects as Art, Science, and Social Studies are scarified to prepare for tests.
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Another reason of ineffectiveness of graduation tests lies in the fact that they do not provide skills, knowledge, or habits that are needed for further success in college or at work. As exit exams do not include most of essential characteristics for college or work, their scores have little significance for colleges or employers (National Center for Fair & Open Testing). Thus, high school diplomas do not become more estimable because of high achievements in exit tests. To become successful after school, students have to gain problem-solving skills and think critically and independently. Graduation tests assess basic skills of reading and mathematics without paying enough attention for thinking skills. In this case, exit tests can have negative effect on students’ readiness and performance in further education and work.
In conclusion, exit exams in high schools are superfluous. Instead of spending money on testing students, the state has to improve the educational system in order to ensure knowledgeable students. It is significant to understand that the primary goal of education is not providing tests and exams for assessing students’ knowledge, but ensuring students with necessary knowledge and skills that will be useful in future life.