Thursday, September 05, 2013

HSAP: High School Exit Exam Reveals Major Flaws in System

The heartfelt letter to the editor from the Rev. J.T. Williams of the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Summerville emphasizes the cruelties imposed on graduating seniors by their failure to pass the HSAP, or exit exam. How, he asks, could a student pass all of his classes, meeting all diploma requirements, and then be denied a diploma for not passing the HSAP?

Well, that's a good question. To put it another way, how could a student fail the HSAP when he or she has passed all required subjects to receive a diploma? Note that HSAP guidelines make adjustments for limited English proficiency, students with IEP's (individualized education programs), and disabilities. See

Why have an exit exam at all? These tests appeared decades ago as an antidote to students' graduating from high school unable to read own their diplomas (at worst) or unfit for even the simplest of jobs requiring literacy and basic math skills. NCLB now requires testing as part of the law that enables the public to assess how well a school is educating its students.

The student who opens his diploma folder to find it empty should not be shocked. Students have multiple opportunities to pass parts of the exam for years prior to, and even after, graduation.

Some could argue that the topics covered by the HSAP go far beyond the original purpose of the test; however, nothing is tested that is not in the required curriculum for high school. Show me the teacher who has not been under duress to make sure that at least 80 percent of her students pass the course. What teacher has not pushed that persevering but unprepared (for the level) student over the line to 70?

The Reverend Williams wants to see South Carolina drop its requirement of an exit exam, as in a bill passed by the state representatives last spring that will be taken up by the state senate in January.

Some have suggested that students take the ACT instead, with non-college bound students taking the ACT-WorkKeys. See for a description. The former might annoy the college-bound with its higher levels of mathematics, but the latter testing seems to answer the original problem of employability. Certainly this switch would make the ACT organization happy!

If the exit test is not replaced by other measures, such as passing end-of-course tests, at failing schools standards will fall again.

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