Testing students for academic achievement or competency is not new. As early as the 1970s, some states were making adequate performance on “exit examinations” a prerequisite for high school graduation. This was done in an effort to enhance teacher quality as well as student achievement during an era when many questions were raised by parents, educators, and the public at large about the seeming lack of basic skills in high school graduates.
While varying and inconsistent approaches have been taken to measure student performance at the elementary school level, there is more unison in setting certain minimum criteria for graduation from high school. The vast majority of states require an overall accumulation of “Carnegie units” (reflecting the number of classroom hours spent learning) in addition to passing grades in certain core subjects. But by 2002, nearly half of all states required (or were planning to require within the next two years) “exit exams” in addition to accumulated credit hours in order for students to receive diplomas evidencing high school graduation.