The Intersection

Intersection Webinar Recap: Do End-of-Course Exams Influence Student Outcomes?

November 10, 2019

States across the country are reassessing their student testing policies to find the balance of increasing student and teacher accountability without over-testing students. With federal focus on graduation rates as the main accountability measure for high schools instead of specific content assessments, states have been afforded the flexibility to determine their own testing structures for high school students.

State End-of-Course exams (or EOCs) have emerged as a preferred assessment for states, but until recently, it has been unclear how states compared in implementing these assessments and if they were associated with positive student outcomes.

Dr. Adam Tyner of the Fordham Institute joined us at the Intersection this week to answer these questions and more with his recent report, “End-of-Course Exams and Student Outcomes.” This national study seeks to shed light on the use of state administered EOC exams as an accountability tool for schools and students and their impact on student outcomes.

Key Takeaways | End-of-Course Exams and Student Outcomes

  • Unlike traditional exit exams that test low-level skills and are required for graduation, EOCs are tied to specific high school coursework and can be used in a number of ways to ensure school and student accountability beyond serving as a prerequisite for graduation.

  • EOCs have increased in popularity since the mid 1990’s, when North Carolina and New York were the only two states that administered them. After peaking in 2017 with 30 states administering such exams, some states have begun to phase them out.

  • Math and Science are the most common courses for EOCs, but English Language Arts (ELA) courses have seen the fastest growth in the past decade.

  • The use of EOCs as state accountability tools have increased dramatically over the last decade. At the school level, states use these exams to create incentives or consequences for teachers and administrators, as well as to meet federal accountability requirements.

  • In addition to holding adults accountable, EOCs also serve as a method of student accountability, with practices ranging from including EOC scores into students’ course grades to requiring passing a certain number of exams to graduate.

  • Breaking from previous studies on this topic, the report found that EOCs have a positive effect on graduation rates, especially in math and ELA. Further, the more EOCs a student takes, the higher the probability they will graduate. However, this correlation does not hold for Black and Hispanic students.

  • Students in states with the most EOCs seem to outperform other students on college entrance exams (like the SAT or ACT) despite there being no statistically significant correlation between EOCs by subject area and college entrance exam scores.

Fordham Institute’s Policy Recommendations

  • Unlike exit exams, EOCs show no negative effects on graduate rate and in some cases are positively associated with graduate rate. Policymakers should therefore consider leveraging these benefits to improve graduation rates.

  • Students in states that require the most EOCs outperform other states on college entrance exam scores and graduation rates. By building high school accountability systems around EOCs, states could see better student outcomes. 

  • The lack of federal requirements provides flexibility for states to employ EOCs as an accountability measure in a manner that is responsive to their policy needs.

For our full conversation with Adam, please watch the webinar below.

Register now for our next Intersection Webinar on Wednesday, November 20 at 1 p.m. ET when we welcome Alan Richard, board member from Rural Trust, to discuss the latest “Why Rural Matters” Report. This report provides an overall “priority” ranking of the 50 states, showing the greatest needs in rural education. The report also ranks the states and includes state-by-state data on demographics and poverty, student achievement, state resources, and college and career readiness.

See you at The Intersection!

The Hunt Team

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