A regression discontinuity analysis of graduation standards and their impact on students’ academic trajectories
In 2006, North Carolina put in place high school exit standards requiring students to pass a series of high-stakes exams across several years. I use a regression discontinuity (RD) approach to analyze whether passing or failing one of these exams (Algebra I) impacts a student's decision between choosing a more rigorous college-preparatory math curriculum and an easier ‘career’ track math curriculum. I find a 5 percentage point gap in the probability of selecting the rigorous curriculum between 9th grade students who just passed and those who just failed the exam. RD results across two years (one year in which the graduation standards were not in place) suggest that the discontinuity arose due to fewer students opting into the college track as a result of the exam results.
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