High school students across the country take a variety of assessments for different purposes. Students in some states take high school exit exams required for graduation. Students in other states take state-developed end-of-course exams that factor into their course grades. Federal law requires that, at a minimum, states assess high school students at least once in English language arts/literacy (ELA), mathematics, and science; these results are used for school accountability. Students in some states also take an additional series of tests for college entrance or college credit, such as the ACT or SAT college admissions exams, PSAT, Advanced Placement exams, and International Baccalaureate exams — the list goes on.
With states’ recent transitions to new assessments and accountability systems, we wanted to know more about how these varied assessments, with varied purposes, matter for students and schools. In March 2019, Achieve compiled a list of each state’s required 2018–19 high school assessments in mathematics, ELA, science, social studies, and career readiness. Next, we analyzed whether and how the assessments matter for students and for schools, and whether states have assessments that matter for both students and schools. Finally, we analyzed whether states have created statewide policies that signal to students in high school whether they are ready for college-level work based on performance on a high school assessment.