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Student competency testing, although often controversial, has become the centerpiece of school reform legislation. Testing policies are widely supported by the general population and are used to raise academic standards. Conceptually, tests are designed to promote better teaching and learning, increase student motivation, increase graduation rates, lead to a more productive workforce, and instill greater confidence in the public schools system. However, the research regarding the effectiveness of competency testing is mixed.

Legal analysis of public school competency tests began with Debra P. v. Turlington (1984), a case involving a 1978 Florida statute requiring students to pass a functional literacy test prior to obtaining high school diplomas. Plaintiffs challenged the law, alleging a disproportionate impact on Black students. Initially, the Fifth Circuit upheld an injunction for ...

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