This chapter examines one vocational high school's response to a state exit exam. Many states now require high school students to pass an exit exam before graduating, a key element of standards-based accountability reforms. Little is known about how educators and students inside vocational schools respond to these exams which typically emphasize literacy and academic skills. We examine how one such school attempted to respond to demands linked to the exit exam and the state's labeling the school as underperforming. While teachers reported support for state intervention and placing stronger demands on the school, one remedy involved becoming more selective in terms of new students admitted. As a result, tensions arose between academic subject and vocational teachers. Deep frustrations were voiced by several teachers and students about whether preparation was sufficient to ensure a reasonable pass rate. We employ a critical public policy framework to illuminate how this policy shock spurred positive action while penalizing students for years of insufficient preparation in the public schools.
Schmidt, M., Castellano, M., Tapales, A., Stringfield, S. and Stone, J.R. (2008), "Chapter 8 Exit exams and organizational change in a vocational high school", Fuller, B., Henne, M.K. and Hannum, E. (Ed.) Strong States, Weak Schools: The Benefits and Dilemmas of Centralized Accountability (Research in the Sociology of Education, Vol. 16), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 209-234. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1479-3539(08)16008-6
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