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Do High School Exit Exams Influence Educational Attainment or Labor Market Performance?

  • Thomas S. Dee
  • Brian A. Jacob

State requirements that high school graduates pass exit exams were the leading edge of the movement towards standards-based reform and continue to be adopted and refined by states today. In this study, we present new empirical evidence on how exit exams influenced educational attainment and labor market experiences using data from the 2000 Census and the National Center for Education Statistics' Common Core of Data (CCD). Our results suggest that the effects of these reforms have been heterogeneous. For example, our analysis of the Census data suggests that exit exams significantly reduced the probability of completing high school, particularly for black students. Similarly, our analysis of grade-level dropout data from the CCD indicates that Minnesota's recent exit exam increased the dropout rate in urban and high-poverty school districts as well as in those with a relatively large concentration of minority students. This increased risk of dropping out was concentrated among 12th grade students. However, we also found that Minnesota's exit exam lowered the dropout rate in low-poverty and suburban school districts, particularly among students in the 10th and 11th grades. These results suggest that exit exams have the capacity to improve student and school performance but also appear to have exacerbated the inequality in educational attainment.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12199.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12199.

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Date of creation: May 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Gamoran, Adam (ed.) Standards-Based Reform and Children in Poverty: Lessons for "No Child Left Behind." Brookings Institution Press, 2007.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12199
Note: CH ED
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page: http://www.nber.org
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  1. Bishop, John H. & Mane, Ferran, 2001. "The impacts of minimum competency exam graduation requirements on high school graduation, college attendance and early labor market success," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 203-222, May.
  2. Lillard, Dean R. & DeCicca, Philip P., 2001. "Higher standards, more dropouts? Evidence within and across time," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(5), pages 459-473, October.
  3. Gruber, Jonathan, 1994. "The Incidence of Mandated Maternity Benefits," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 622-41, June.
  4. Murnane, Richard J. & Levy, Frank, 2001. "Will Standards-Based Reforms Improve the Education of Students of Color?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 2), pages 401-16, June.
  5. Randall Reback & Julie Berry Cullen, 2006. "Tinkering toward accolades: School gaming under a performance accountability system," Working Papers 0601, Barnard College, Department of Economics.
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