The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 14, 2013

Alabama school board ends graduation exam


bud@athensnews-courier.com

ATHENS —

The high school graduation exam, a fixture in Alabama's public schools for 30 years, is getting relegated to the history books.

The State Board of Education voted today to do away with the exam that students had to pass for graduation. The end of the exam applies to students who were ninth-graders in 2010-2011 and are seniors this school year. Students who were in the ninth grade before 2010-2011 and are one or two grade levels behind will still need to pass the exam to graduate.

State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice said the exam is no longer a good measurement of the school board's goal of having every graduate ready for college or a career.

"It will no longer be required. If they pass their course work, they will graduate from high school," he said.

He said the school board is moving toward end-of-course exams for the major required courses. They are already in place for 10th-grade English and Algebra 1, and so far, there is no score that students must make to successfully complete a course. "This is our baseline year, and we will take the results from this year to determine the baseline from which to set scores as we move forward," he said.

The school board plans to add more end-of-course exams as the budget permits.

Republican school board member Mary Scott Hunter of Huntsville said the graduation exam needed to go because by the time a student took it and did poorly, it was too late to do much about the problem. She said the end-of-course exams will point out problems while there is still time to address them.

Alabama first administered the high school graduation exam in October 1983, and it first applied to the graduating class of 1985, state Department of Education spokeswoman Malissa Valdes-Hubert said.

 

In addition to end-of-course exams, Alabama's public schools will be giving the ACT college entrance exam to all 11th-graders. Bice said it will not be a graduation requirement, but it will be a better measurement of how students are doing in meeting the state school board's academic goals.