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CEP discussion paper
To Leave or Not to Leave? A Regression Discontinuity Analysis of the Impact of Failing the High School Exit Exam
Dongshu Ou January 2009
Paper No' CEPDP0907:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: I21; I28; J24

Tags: high school exit exam; student dropout; regression discontinuity

The high school exit exam (HSEE) is rapidly becoming a standardized assessment procedure for educational accountability in the United States. I use a unique state-specific dataset to identify the effect of failing the HSEE on the likelihood that a student drops out early based on a Regression Discontinuity design. It shows that students who barely fail the exam are more likely to exit than those who barely pass despite being offered retest opportunities. The discontinuity amounts to a large proportion of the dropout probability of barely-failers, particularly for minority and low-income students, suggesting that the potential benefit of raising educational standards might come at the cost of increasing inequalities in the educational system.