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Missouri's education commissioner, Robert Bartman now says he wants to require an exit exam for high school seniors before they can be awarded a diploma. Students would be allowed to take the test as early as the 10th grade. Graduation would be contingent on taking the test.

There is nothing wrong, in principle, with the idea of an exit exam. Check 19th century educational materials and you will find rigorous such exams from the eighth grade level, which was then the highest level of completion for most students. Few of today's high school seniors could pass such rigorous tests from 100 years ago.

It is precisely because Bartman has led a move away from such tried-and-true traditional approaches, and has consistently misled Missourians about it, that large numbers of us remain deeply skeptical of him and his department. And that goes for any test he and his hugely expensive methods would produce.

We also would like it if he and his department would give similar attention to holding teachers accountable for the material they teach. Most of our teachers do a great job under difficult circumstances. Others don't. The good ones have nothing to fear from a fair test. How about accountability for teachers?