High school exit exams still at play in Mississippi legislature

Exit exams in Mississippi could soon be a thing of the past. Representative Tom Miles says he believes exit exams are unnecessary and should be done away with in Mississippi.

“If they leave the amendment out penalizing our children…then we plan to recommit the bill back to the committee with instructions to put the amendment back in there,” Miles said. 

While 62 votes are required to pass the amendment, Miles said he feels confident they will get it passed in the house for the second time.

“It’s a federal requirement that all students have to take the English arts, the math, and the science, but there are no federal requirements that they have to have that as a graduation requirement,” Miles said. “That’s something that we in Mississippi are putting on our children, not the federal government.”

Miles said that last year alone 600 students failed to graduate because of failed exit exams. However, other legislators say they will fight to keep the exit exams in play.

“It’s a shame that we’re even having this discussion because I’m not in favor of handing out diplomas like a drive-by window,” said Senator Gray Tollison. “We need to make sure that we raise expectations for our students and make sure they are learning what has been taught to them. The only way you can measure that is by a test.”

Miles said that replacing the exit exam with the ACT in Mississippi became complicated because the test does not align with the state’s academic standards and that state superintendent Carey Wright needs to re-evaluate the ESSA plan and make the necessary changes to include the ACT.

RELATED: Dr. Wright and Rep. Miles debate exit exams in Mississippi

Tollison said that while Miles suggested using the ACT, there could be some complications with that solution.

“If he wants to use the ACT, the ACT recommends that you have a 21 or higher to be determined to be college or career ready,” Tollison. “If he wants to use 21, then you better get ready for a lot of students not graduating, because based on our last year’s graduating class, only 11% out of thirty-something thousand made a 21 or higher, if he uses a 17, 50% didn’t. Be careful what you ask for because that’s not going to work.” 

Tollison added that doing away with exit exams would be unfair to the majority of students who are meeting the requirements and passing the exit exams.