Bruno: Exit Exams Are For Students, Not Adults
The Providence Student Union is organizing an anti-high-stakes-testing protest in which adults take a test similar to the one required of students in Rhode Island to graduate high school. This isn't the first time this sort of publicity stunt has been performed, but since it's in the news it's worth remembering that the underlying logic of the protest is totally confused.
The rationale behind the protest isn't always clearly articulated, but the main assumption seems to be that if "accomplished" adults struggle with a test, it's unreasonable or unfair to expect much younger students to complete it successfully.
The problem with that line of thinking is that many adults are well out of school and have long since taken academic and career paths that happen not to involve the specific knowledge covered by the test.
Supporters of this protest might respond by arguing that if many adults aren't using the content covered by the test, we shouldn't be including it in a high-stakes testing situation for kids. This response, however, misses the point of the tests.
If high school exit exams make sense, it is not because the content covered by the test must necessarily be important for all - or even most - future adults.
Rather, the point is that a certain level of proficiency is important for the students themselves at the time they take the test because academic unpreparedness at that age closes off meaningful educational and employment options in the future. Skills may atrophy after students have chosen their respective paths into adulthood, but if the skills are never developed in school those choices will not be available to begin with.
In other words, the substance of the protest only makes sense if you assume that school should only teach content that all students will definitely use on a regular basis once they finish their educations. It is unlikely that many of the protesters would accept that sort of curriculum-narrowing premise in other contexts.
There are many perfectly good reasons to be skeptical about withholding a diploma from a student because of poor performance on an exit exam. The fact that many adults would struggle on such a test isn't one of those reasons. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)