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

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  • Thomas S. Dee
  • Brian A. Jacob

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas S. Dee & Brian A. Jacob, 2006. "Do High School Exit Exams Influence Educational Attainment or Labor Market Performance?," NBER Working Papers 12199, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12199
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Murnane, Richard J. & Levy, Frank, 2001. "Will Standards-Based Reforms Improve the Education of Students of Color?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 54(2), pages 401-416, June.
    2. Julie Berry Cullen & Randall Reback, 2006. "Tinkering Toward Accolades: School Gaming Under a Performance Accountability System," NBER Working Papers 12286, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Gruber, Jonathan, 1994. "The Incidence of Mandated Maternity Benefits," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 622-641, June.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Maria De Paola & Vincenzo Scoppa, 2008. "A signalling model of school grades: centralized versus decentralized examinations," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0025, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW).
    2. John P. Papay & Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett, 2008. "The Consequences of High School Exit Examinations for Struggling Low-Income Urban Students: Evidence from Massachusetts," NBER Working Papers 14186, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Shao-Hsun Keng, 2016. "The Effect of a Stricter Academic Dismissal Policy on Course Selection, Student Effort, and Grading Leniency," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 11(2), pages 203-224, Spring.
    4. Giorgio Brunello & Daniele Checchi, 2007. "Does school tracking affect equality of opportunity? New international evidence," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 22, pages 781-861, October.
    5. Kim, Jeounghee & Joo, Myungkook, 2011. "Did PRWORA's mandatory school attendance policy increase attendance among targeted teenage girls?," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(9), pages 1616-1623, September.
    6. Paco Martorell & Damon Clark, 2010. "The Signaling Value of a High School Diploma," Working Papers 1248, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    7. Hall, Caroline, 2016. "Does more general education reduce the risk of future unemployment? Evidence from an expansion of vocational upper secondary education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 251-271.
    8. Daphna Bassok & Thomas Dee & Scott Latham, 2017. "The Effects of Accountability Incentives in Early Childhood Education," NBER Working Papers 23859, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Katherine Caves & Simone Balestra, 2014. "The Impact of High School Exit Exams on Graduation Rates and Achievement," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0123, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW).
    10. Whitaker, Stephan, 2011. "The impact of legalized abortion on high school graduation through selection and composition," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 228-246, April.
    11. Hall, Caroline, 2009. "Does making upper secondary school more comprehensive affect dropout rates, educational attainment and earnings? Evidence from a Swedish pilot scheme," Working Paper Series 2009:9, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    12. Paco Martorell & Damon Clark, 2010. "The Signaling Value of a High School Diploma," Working Papers 1248, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    13. Sjögren, Anna, 2010. "Graded Children – Evidence of Longrun Consequences of School Grades from a Nationwide Reform," Working Paper Series 839, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    14. Hall, Caroline, 2013. "Does more general education reduce the risk of future unemployment? Evidence from labor market experiences during the Great Recession," Working Paper Series, Center for Labor Studies 2013:10, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    15. Caroline Hall, 2012. "The Effects of Reducing Tracking in Upper Secondary School: Evidence from a Large-Scale Pilot Scheme," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 47(1), pages 237-269.
    16. Goodman, Joshua Samuel, 2012. "The Labor of Division: Returns to Compulsory Math Coursework," Scholarly Articles 9403178, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
    17. Maria De Paola & Vincenzo Scoppa, 2010. "A signalling model of school grades under different evaluation systems," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 101(3), pages 199-212, November.
    18. Marcotte, Dave E., 2011. "Exit Exams and High School Dropout," IZA Discussion Papers 5527, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    19. Eduardo de Carvalho Andrade & Luciano I. de Castro, 2008. "Tougher Educational Exam Leading to Worse Selection," Discussion Papers 1469, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    20. Christopher L. Smith, 2011. "Polarization, immigration, education: What's behind the dramatic decline in youth employment?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2011-41, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    21. Eduardo Andrade & Luciano De Castro, 2010. "Tougher Educational Exam Leading to Worse Selection," Discussion Papers 1533, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    22. Bridget Terry Long, 2010. "Dropout Prevention and College Prep," NBER Chapters,in: Targeting Investments in Children: Fighting Poverty When Resources are Limited, pages 249-282 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    23. Yi-Chun Chen & Siyang Xiong, 2008. "Topologies on Types: Connections," Discussion Papers 1470, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    24. Dhaval M. Dave & Nancy E. Reichman & Hope Corman, 2008. "Effects of Welfare Reform on Educational Acquisition of Young Adult Women," NBER Working Papers 14466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    25. de Carvalho Andrade, Eduardo & de Castro, Luciano I., 2011. "Tougher educational exam leading to worse selection," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 5, pages 1-24.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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