To ensure that students who receive high school diplomas meet basic thresholds of academic proficiency and job readiness, 24 states have adopted exit exams that students must pass to graduate. Opponents of these exams complain that they drive already-low graduation rates downward. They argue that raising the bar for graduation forces many students, minority students in particular, to drop out.
This study uses two highly respected graduation rate calculations to evaluate what effect high school exit exams have on graduation rates. The results for both graduation rate calculations show that adopting a high school exit exam has no effect on a state's graduation rate. The analyses also show that neither reducing class sizes nor increasing education spending leads to higher graduation rates.