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High School-Level Assessments: Purpose(s) of Exams

Why does it matter? States benefit when students take assessments seriously because the tests can result in personal consequences or recognition.

ECS has identified where states use high school-level assessments for any of the following purposes (a summary table is available here):

  • Course credit/grade: Nine states require or will require a score on a state end-of-course assessment to be factored into a student's grade in the related course.
  • Level of diploma: Five states use state assessment scores as a criterion for awarding honors/college prep or other advanced/endorsed diplomas.
  • School accountability Currently all states are using state assessments for school accountability purposes in order to meet the testing and accountabilityrequirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. This database does not indicate where states are additionally using test scores for purposes of state accountability systems separate from the NCLB system.
  • High school graduation (exit exam): Twenty-two states currently require students to attain minimum scores on state assessments as a condition of receiving a high school diploma. An additional four states will implement exit exams between 2008 and 2012.
  • Student non-monetary awards/recognition: Six states award students non-monetary recognition (such as a certificate, or endorsement on a student's transcript) for superior performance on a state assessment. A seventh state, Kentucky, will implement such a policy in the 2007-2008 school year. An eighth state, Oklahoma does not have a statewide program but authorizes districts to issue students a "certificate of distinction" based on performance on end-of-instruction assessments as they are implemented.
  • Student financial awards or scholarships: Eight states currently require students to attain a minimum score on a state assessment as one of the eligibility criteria for receiving a state scholarship, while a ninth state, New York, makes state assessment scores one of three methods a high school may select for awarding a state scholarship.
  • Student promotion/retention: No state currently ties state assessments to student promotion/retention at the high school level.
  • Certificate of mastery: Three states currently offer a certificate of mastery based partially or wholly on a student's performance on state assessments. A fourth state, Washington, eliminated its certificate of mastery in 2004 but will, effective with the Class of 2008, award a certificate of academic achievement to a student who attains the standard on all portions of the state exit exam.
  • Required remediation: ECS has identified 18 states that require students who score below the benchmark on a state assessment to receive remediation. A 19th state, Kentucky, will join their ranks, effective with the 2007-2008 school year.

All sources for all data points are available through this link.

Last updated: April 10, 2007

Please contact Jennifer Dounay at jdounay@ecs.org or 303.299.3689 with questions or comments about this database.

Purpose(s) of high school-level exam
Alabama
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Alaska
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Arizona
  • School accountability
    Notes/Citation: AIMS but not TerraNova used for school accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
    Notes/Citation: AIMS but not TerraNova used as state exit exam
  • Student financial awards or scholarships
    Notes/Citation: To meet the assessment-related eligibility criteria for an Arizona Board of Regents High Honors Tuition Waiver Scholarship, a student must either (1) exceed standards on all 3 AIMS tests or (2) exceed standards on 2 AIMS tests and meet standards on the third AIMS test, plus achieve either a "3" on two Advanced Placement exams or a "4" on two International Baccalaureate exams.
  • Arkansas
  • Course credit/grade
    Notes/Citation: Through Class of 2009, student must take end-of-course assessment and receive any necessary remediation to receive credit for the course related to the end-of-course assessment. (A student is not required to pass an end-of-course assessment to receive credit for a course.) Effective with the Class of 2010, a student may not receive credit for a course related to an end-of-course assessment until the student passes the assessment or "is identified as having, by the end of grade 12, finished an appropriate Alternative exit course" and has passed an alternative assessment directly related to the alternative exit course.
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
    Notes/Citation: Effective with the Class of 2010, a student must pass an end-of-course assessment or alternative assessment tied to an alternative exit course to receive a high school diploma.
  • Remediation required
    Notes/Citation: Any student required to take an end-of-course assessment but not passing an assessment must "participate in his or her remediation activities as required in his or her individualized academic improvement plan ... in order to receive credit ... for the course related to the end-of-course assessment." Beginning with the 2009-10, a student who does not pass an end-of-course exam must participate in an individualized academic improvement plan but must also pass the end-of-course assessment or an alternative end-of-course assessment tied to an alternative course to graduate from high school.
  • California
  • Level of diploma
    Notes/Citation: A Golden State Seal Merit Diploma is awarded a student who demonstrates mastery of the curriculum in any six subject areas, four of which must be English, math, science and U.S. history. For subjects included in the Golden State Examination, that exam must be the means by which the student shows mastery of the curriculum.
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Student financial awards or scholarships
    Notes/Citation: A student who earned qualifying scores on all authorized exams before December 31, 2002 is eligible for a Governor's Scholars Award or Governor's Math and Science Award. "Awards must be claimed by the five-year anniversary of the June 30th following the date of the qualifying exam." (All awards must be claimed by December 31, 2007.)
  • Remediation required
  • Colorado
  • School accountability
  • Connecticut
  • School accountability
  • Certificate of mastery
    Notes/Citation: A student who meets or exceeds the statewide mastery goal level on any portion of the grade 10 mastery exam is issued a certificate of mastery for that component.
  • Remediation required
  • Delaware
  • Level of diploma
    Notes: The Class of 2007 is the last class for which scores on the Delaware Student Testing Program will be used to award the State of Delaware Distinguished Achievement Diploma.
  • School accountability
  • Student financial awards or scholarships
    Notes/Citation: Each year, up to 300 10th grade students who demonstrate outstanding performance on the Delaware Student Testing Program (DSTP) in reading, writing, and math will are awarded $1,000 scholarships, known as the Michael C. Ferguson Achievement Award. Awards are made to students with the 150 highest scores on the DSTP generally, and to the 150 highest scores on the DSTP who are eligible for free/reduced lunch.
  • Remediation required
    Notes/Citation: Appears in practice in grade 9 although policy no longer includes grade 9.
  • District of Columbia
  • School accountability
  • Florida
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Remediation required
  • Georgia
  • Course credit/grade
    Notes/Citation: Scores on end-of-course exams count for 15% of the student’s final numeric grade in the course.
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Hawaii
  • School accountability
  • Idaho
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Illinois
  • School accountability
  • Student non-monetary awards/recognition
    Notes/Citation: Students who score at the "Exceeds Standards" level on the Prairie State Achievement Examination earn a Prairie State Achievement Award in that subject area. Receipt of an award is also recorded on the student transcript.
  • Student financial awards or scholarships
    Notes/Citation: The Merit Recognition Scholarship (MRS) Program offers a one-time, $1,000 scholarship to students whose GPAs place them in the top 5% of their high school class OR scored among the top 5% of scores in the state on the ACT, SAT or Prairie State Achievement Exam during the 3rd or 4th semester prior to graduation.
  • Indiana
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Remediation required
  • Iowa
  • School accountability
  • Kansas
  • School accountability
  • Kentucky
  • Course credit/grade
    Notes/Citation: A score on an end-of-course exam (once implemented) must be used in calculating a student's final grade. End-of-course exams must be piloted by the 2007-2008 school year, but a final implementation date is not known.
  • School accountability
  • Student non-monetary awards/recognition
    Notes/Citation: A student meeting the WorkKeys threshold set by the Cabinet for Workforce Development must be issued the appropriate Kentucky employability certificate. The WorkKeys must be offered to students in grades 10-12 by the 2007-2008 school year.
  • Remediation required
    Notes/Citation: Effective with the 2007-2008 school year, a student whose score on the EXPLORE, PLAN or WorkKeys "indicate[s] that additional assistance is required in English, reading or" math must "have intervention strategies for acelerated learning incorporated into his or her learning plan." Also, a student whose ACT score in English, reading or math would require placement at the postsecondary level "in a remedial course or an entry-level course with supplementary academic support" must have "the opportunity to participate in accelerated learning designed to address his or her identified academic deficiencies prior to high school graduation."
  • Louisiana
  • Level of diploma
    Notes/Citation: To earn an academic endorsement to the standard diploma, students must pass all portions of the GEE with a score of basic or above, or one of two specified combinations of scores with the English language arts score at basic or above.
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Remediation required
    Notes: Students and parents may refuse remediation with written documentation.
  • Maine
  • School accountability
  • Student non-monetary awards/recognition
  • Maryland
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
    Notes/Citation: Beginning with the Class of 2009, students will need to pass the Maryland High School Assessments (HSA) to graduate from high school.
  • Remediation required
  • Massachusetts
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
    Notes/Citation: State currently requires students to pass English and math MCAS. Effective with the Class of 2010, a student will also need to pass one of the science end-of-course assessments (biology, chemistry, introductory physics or technology/engineering) to receive a high school diploma.
  • Student financial awards or scholarships
    Notes: State offers two financial aid opportunties based on MCAS scores: Stanley Z. Koplik Certificate of Mastery Tuition Waiver awards and the John and Abagail Adams Scholarship.
  • Certificate of mastery
    Notes/Citation: State awards the Certificate of Mastery and the Certificate of Mastery with Distinction. To earn the Certificate of Mastery, a student must score "Advanced" on at least one grade 10 MCAS subject and score either "Advanced" or "Proficient" on the other subjects in the grade 10 MCAS. New requirements have been approved for the Class of 2009. To qualify for the Certificate of Mastery with Distinction, a student must achieve state-set AP and/or SAT II and/or other achievements in science, writing, and artistic or literary achievement.
  • Michigan
  • Course credit/grade
    Notes/Citation: Once the state end-of-course assessments are developed (spring 2009 at the latest), districts must base course credit determinations at least partially on a student's performance on the end-of-course assessment.
  • School accountability
  • Student non-monetary awards/recognition
  • Student financial awards or scholarships
  • Minnesota
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
    Notes/Citation: Beginning with the Class of 2010, state will replace the basic skills tests (grade 8 in reading and math, grade 10 in writing) with the GRAD assessments.
  • Remediation required
  • Mississippi
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Missouri
  • Course credit/grade
    Notes/Citation: End-of-course exams, to be implemented in 2008-2009, are likely to be factored into student grades; however, a final determination by the state board of education has not been made.
  • School accountability
  • Montana
  • School accountability
  • Nebraska
  • School accountability
    Notes: Results from local assessments are used for school accountability purposes.
  • Nevada
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Remediation required
  • New Hampshire
  • School accountability
  • New Jersey
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Remediation required
  • New Mexico
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • New York
  • Course credit/grade
  • Level of diploma
    Notes/Citation: To earn a Regents diploma with honors, a student must score an average of at least 90% on all Regents examinations. To earn a Regents diploma with an advanced designation, a student must complete additional Regents examinations in mathematics; an additonal Regents examination in science; and one of the following: two additional units in a language other than English for a total of three units and the Regents comprehensive assessment in that language, OR a five-credit sequence in the Arts, OR a five-credit sequence in Career and Technical Education.
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Student financial awards or scholarships
    Notes/Citation: Each high school in the state is allocated one $1,500 Scholarship for Academic Excellence, and smaller $500 scholarships are also available. A high school must select one of three state-approved methods of determining a scholarship winner. One method is by weighing Regents examination scores.
  • North Carolina
  • Course credit/grade
    Notes/Citation: Districts must "use results from all operational end-of-course assessments as at least 25% of the student's final grade for each respective course." Each district must "adopt policies regarding the use of end-of-course assessment results in assigning final grades."
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Remediation required
  • North Dakota
  • School accountability
  • Ohio
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Oklahoma
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
    Notes/Citation: Effective with the Class of 2012, students must pass end-of-instruction tests in Algebra I, English II and two additional subject areas (selected from Algebra II, Biology I, English III, Geometry and U.S. History) to earn a high school diploma.
  • Student non-monetary awards/recognition
    Notes/Citation: A district may develop and issue a certificate of distinction. A student must meet several criteria to earn the certificate, including a satisfactory score on all end-of-instruction assessments as they are implemented.
  • Remediation required
    Notes/Citation: Students who do not earn at least a satisfactory score on an end-of-instruction test must be provided remediation.
  • Oregon
  • School accountability
  • Student financial awards or scholarships
  • Certificate of mastery
  • Remediation required
  • Pennsylvania
  • School accountability
  • Student non-monetary awards/recognition
    Notes/Citation: Any student who scores at the proficient level in a state assessed discipline receives a Pennsylvania Certificate of Proficiency for that discipline; a student scoring at the advanced level on any state assessed discipline receives a Pennsylvania Certificate of Distinction.
  • Puerto Rico
  • School accountability
  • Rhode Island
  • School accountability
  • South Carolina
  • Course credit/grade
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
    Notes/Citation: Effective with the Class of 2010, students will additionally be required to pass a high school credit course in science and a course in United States history in which end-of-course examinations are administered to receive the state high-school diploma.
  • South Dakota
  • School accountability
  • Tennessee
  • Course credit/grade
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Remediation required
  • Texas
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Utah
  • School accountability
  • Remediation required
  • Vermont
  • School accountability
  • Virginia
  • Course credit/grade
    Notes/Citation: Schools may consider the student's end-of-course test score in determining the student's final course grade.
  • Level of diploma
    Notes: Students who entered 9th grade in 2002-03 must pass end-of-course tests in English and writing, and any other four end-of-course tests to earn a Standard Diploma. Students entering 9th grade in 2003-04 and after must pass the two end-of-course English tests, one test each in mathematics, history, and science, and one test of their own choosing to earn a standard diploma. To earn advanced diplomas students must pass additional end-of-course tests.
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
  • Remediation required
    Notes/Citation: A student who fails an end-of-course exam required for the award of a verified unit of credit (end-of-course exam that is part of the exit exam) must participate in a remediation program.
  • Washington
  • School accountability
  • High school graduation (exit exam)
    Notes/Citation: Effective with the Class of 2008, students will be required to pass the reading, writing and math portions of the WASL to earn a high school diploma. Effective with the Class of 2010, students will additionally be required to pass the science portion of the WASL to graduate from high school.
  • Student non-monetary awards/recognition
    Notes/Citation: The Class of 2007 is the last in which a student may receive a "scholar designation" on the high school transcript for having achieved a level four on the WASL on the first attempt.
  • Certificate of mastery
    Notes/Citation: The Certificate of Mastery was replaced in 2004 by the Certificate of Academic Achievement, which will first be available to students in the Class of 2008. Any "student who meets the state standards on the reading, writing, and mathematics content areas of the high school Washington assessment of student learning" (WASL) must be awarded a Certificate of Academic Achievement. Effective with the Class of 2010, a student will also be required to pass the science portion of the WASL to earn the Certificate of Academic Achievement.
  • Remediation required
  • West Virginia
  • School accountability
  • Wisconsin
  • School accountability
  • Wyoming
  • School accountability
  • Student non-monetary awards/recognition
    Notes/Citation: Each high school transcript must include one of three endorsements based on the student's performance on the common core of knowledge and skills. An advanced endorsement indicates a student has demonstrated advanced performance in a majority of the areas of the common core of knowledge and skills, and proficient performance on the remaining knowledge and skills.
  • Student financial awards or scholarships
    Notes/Citation: Eligibility criteria for a Hathaway Scholarship include either an ACT score of 17 or higher, or WorkKeys score of 12 or higher. All grade 11 students take the ACT or WorkKeys.


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