Statewide High School Exit Exams and Data-based School Improvement: A European Story
In recent decades, school systems all over Europe have seen a shift of school improvement approaches away from planning and hoping for the best towards rationality and data-based decision-making. This has led to the implementation of new test and evaluation systems, but it has also shifted the role of existing test systems, such as statewide high school exit exams. These exams have been an integral part of education systems all over Europe for decades and even centuries. They enjoy broad approval from society in general and school actors in particular and are pivotal for the choice of contents and the adoption of state curricula in the schools, and are therefore widely assumed to be a good instrument to move schooling in a desired direction.
In the presentation, I first introduce the concept of statewide high school exit exams and provide an overview of existing exam practices across Europe. I then discuss the different roles the exams are supposed to play in today’s effectiveness and improvement paradigm in Europe, and the opportunities and boundaries this entails. Finally, I present qualitative and quantitative data from a comparative research study on statewide exit exams and school improvement in three European countries. The purpose is to reassess how education policy intends the exams to be used by schools within structurally and culturally heterogeneous countries, and how these intentions are recontextualized within schools.
Esther Dominique Klein, PhD, is a research employee at the Department of Educational Sciences at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. Her research focuses on educational governance and school improvement from an international comparative perspective. In her dissertation, she focused on the role statewide exit exams play in data-based school improvement in different European countries. Currently she is doing research on leadership for school improvement in schools serving disadvantaged communities in California.