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Education has always been one of the most perplexed issues causing many debates all across America. "Since the early 1980s, many states have implemented policies that require high school students to pass exit examinations to obtain regular diplomas" (Warren & Jenkins, 2005, p. 122). Individual purposes for pursuing education can vary even though it's always been said that education is the key to one's success in life. For some students, as they get into the latter years of high school, educational curriculum and testing become more of a challenge. Some of those challenges can become frustrating for the students and cause one to give up hope and shut down in the classroom ultimately resulting in an individual dropping out of school. In the article, High School Exit Examinations and High School Dropout in Texas and Florida, 1971-2000, the authors inquire whether there is any correlation in state high school exit examinations and high school dropout rates, racial/ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities in high school dropout rates in Texas and Florida (Warren & Jenkins, 2005).
"These exit examinations, as implemented in the 1980s, 'were generally intended to ensure that graduating students had mastered the basic literacy and other skills that are considered the minimum necessary for citizenship and employment'" (Warren & Jenkins, 2005, p. 122). It would seem logical that state high school exit examinations could prevent some students from obtaining their diploma since the exit examinations are created to disclose that students have acquired the particular skills and knowledge in order to graduate from high school. However, the manner in which the exit examinations are overseen should influence the extent to which the examinations are associated with high school dropout behaviors (Warren & Jenkins, 2005).
States vary exceedingly when it comes to their methods of estimating and reporting the dropout rate and many states only report recent dropout rates.
We used nonlinear hierarchical modeling techniques that allowed us to assess the independent association between state high school exit examinations and high school dropout and the extent to which his association is more or less pronounced for students from different racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. For expository purposes, we begin with a baseline model of the effect of state exit examination requirements on high school dropout, in the absence of other student- or school-level covariates. For the binary student-level outcome "dropout" (however defined) the sampling model is Bernoulli (Warren & Jenkins, 2005, p. 131).
The Bernoulli distribution is a discrete probability distribution in theory and statistics. Even though it is difficult to understand, unless you are a statistics or mathematical expert, it would be easier if the equation to configure such results was completed in a basic mathematical formula. Student-level covariates and state-level covariates were also taken into consideration when trying to make a determination whether there was any correlation between the examinations and dropout rates.
The students' social and demographic characteristics are associated with their school performance, including their performance on standardized tests. Minority students and students from less- advantaged social origins tend to do less well on high school exit examinations in Texas, Florida, and elsewhere (Warren & Jenkins, 2005, p. 128).
While reviewing state-level covariates, it was determined that "there was evidence that state-mandated course requirements, GED certificate policies, and compulsory ages of school attendance are all associated with dropout behaviors" (Warren & Jenkins, 2005, p. 130). The results of the high school classes of 1971-2000 pertaining to the student-level covariates are hardly surprising: In both states, students are less likely to drop out if their parents own their owns, if they live in two-married-adult households, and if the heads of their households are relatively well educated and are in occupations of higher socioeconomic standing (Warren & Jenkins, 2005).
Overall, there were many assumptions made in this study but the main strength of this article is that in neither case did the authors find any evidence that state high school exit examinations are independently associated with higher dropout rates or greater inequalities in dropout rates (Warren & Jenkins, 2005). One of the weaknesses found was that students who leave school and obtain GED certificates are counted as high school graduates, along with students who obtain high school diplomas (Warren & Jenkins, 2005). Personally, I do not feel that once a student leaves a public school and obtains a GED certificate that they should be classified in the same category as a student who obtains a high school diploma because the two are considered different types of high school education completion. The authors overall supported each finding though statistics on the research involving whether there was a correlation between high school exit examinations and high school dropouts and their findings proved that there was no relation between the two.
Each state is governed by a State Department of Education which establishes policy and provides leadership for the state's public school system. By adopting policies and setting standards for educational programs, the board provides the direction necessary to enable public schools to prepare today's schoolchildren for a successful future (www.tea.state.tx.us). In Texas, the Department was renamed to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and is responsible for setting standards for public schools, for supervising the public schools of the state, and for handling federal funds related to public education (Ginsberg, Lowi, Weir, Champagne & Harpham, 2011). The high school exit examination in Texas, TAAS, was implemented in 1990 as a comprehensive assessment of the state-mandated curriculum. "The exit-level TAAS assessed mastery of high school-level skills in Reading, Mathematics, and Writing, and was initially aligned with the Texas Essential Elements, the statewide curriculum in effect at the time" (Texas Education Agency [TEA], 2003, p. 3). The amount of research on high school exit examinations and dropout rates can be overwhelming, but according to Ginsberg, Lowi, Weir, Champagne & Harpham (2011),
The dropout rate in grades seven through twelve, however, had declined throughout most of the 1990s, even though it is still high among minorities. Scores on standardized test such as the TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills) test improved across the state, sparking calls for the development of new assessment tests to hold teachers and schools accountable (p. 974).
"In 1987, the legislature passing HB 1010, which substantially increased state and local responsibilities for collecting student dropout information, monitoring dropout rates, and providing dropout reduction services" (Texas Education Agency [TEA], 2000, p.9). TEA was required to establish a statewide dropout information clearinghouse and to form an interagency council to coordinate policies and resources for dropouts and at-risk students. The numbers collected by school districts in attempts to have the proper documentation for students who take the high school exit examinations and students who are classified as dropouts are sound, making them legit for all reports turned in to the state. In Florida, the State Board of Education is referred to as Florida Department of Education. Their mission is to "increase the proficiency of all students within one seamless, efficient system, by providing them with the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills through learning opportunities and research valued by students, parents, and communities, and to maintain an accountability system that measures student progress toward the following goals: highest student achievement, seamless articulation and maximum access, skilled workforce and economic development, and quality efficient services (www.fldoe.org). The High School Competency Test (HSCT) was the name of the exam given to students as their high school exit examination. Passing both the communications and mathematics sections of the HSCT is a requirement for high school graduation. "A dropout is defined as a student who withdraws from school for any of several reasons cited in statute without transferring to another school, home education program, or adult education program" (Florida Department of Education, 2007, p. 1). The statistics from the year 2000 to present, show a slight decrease in the dropout rate and in regards to ethnicity and gender, rates are the highest amongst blacks and males. Regardless of what states are studied, the statistics for high school exit examinations and high school dropout rates will always be available; however, the correlation will remain the same as in this study.
In conclusion, reforming education with a concern for equity and excellence will continue to be a major policy issue for many years. This information could be relevant to groups of educators, not only at the local but state level, and students who are conducting research in the area of high school exit examinations or high school dropouts. With information readily available, it could help to implement and provide direction for programs to be instilled in the education system for improvement in the quality of education for targeted students. Education is becoming increasingly global so hopefully the information gathered is going to help close the gap between those that are socio- disadvantaged and the upper class so that they can compete globally for education and employment. As Warren and Jenkins discovered through their research, there was no correlation between high school exit examinations and high school dropouts in Texas and Florida.