Policy brief

Effects of the California High School Exit Exam on Student Persistence, Achievement, and Graduation

Sean Reardon
Stanford University
Michal Kurlaender
University of California, Davis


A new PACE policy brief summarizes the findings from a study investigating the impact of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) on California’s lowest performing students. Utilizing longitudinal data from four large urban school districts, Sean Reardon from Stanford and Michal Kurlaender from UC-Davis compare students scheduled to graduate just before (2005) and after (2006-07) the exit exam became a requirement for graduation from California high schools. They find that the CAHSEE requirement had no positive effects on students’ academic skills, and a large negative impact on graduation rates that fell disproportionally on minority students and on female students. The authors conclude that policymakers should reevaluate the utility of the high school exit exam in California’s accountability system.

Suggested citationReardon, S., & Kurlaender, M. (2009, September). Effects of the California high school exit exam on student persistence, achievement, and graduation [Policy brief]. Policy Analysis for California Education. https://edpolicyinca.org/publications/effects-california-high-school-exit-exam-student-persistence-achievement-and