High School Exit Exams and Student Outcomes

Publication Date


Grant Type

Early Career Research Award


The marked increase in the federal government’s involvement in public education through No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2001 has affected states in several ways. One effect that has been little discussed is the impact (or lack thereof) of the test-driven accountability climate of NCLB on high school exit exams. This project aims to update the literature on high school exit exams, with a focus on how more recent impacts compare to earlier findings. The policy debate around high school exit exams seems to center on both an achievement-oriented question and an equity question. Prior studies use a mix of types of data to answer questions along both these dimensions. This project will bring both nationally representative district-level data from the Common Core of Data (CCD), as well as nationally representative student-level data from the Educational Longitudinal Survey of 2002 to bear on four questions about the effects of high school exit exams: 1. What is the effect of high school exit exams on 12th grade math performance?; 2. What is the impact of high school exit exams on the propensity of students to apply to college?; 3. What is the effect of high school exit exams on dropout rates?; 4. Has the effect of high school exit exams on high school completion changed over time, since the passage of NCLB? These questions seek to understand if and how such impacts have shifted with the advent of NCLB and its associated increase in the administrative and testing demands made of states.

Grant Product

Hemelt, Steven W. and Dave E. Marcotte. 2013. "High School Exit Exams and Dropout in an Era of Increased Accountability." Journal of Policy Analysis & Management 32(2): 323-349. https://doi.org/10.1002/pam.21688

Hemelt, Steven W., Kimberly B. Roth, and William W. Eaton. 2013. "Elementary School Interventions: Experimental Evidence on Postsecondary Outcomes." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. 34(4): 413-436. https://doi.org/10.3102/0162373713493131