State board of education members are considering a proposal that would require teens to pass at least nine exams before they earn their high school diploma nearly twice as many tests as they take now.
The new end-of-course exams would replace the state’s current high school graduation test, which is 16 years old and has been criticized because most students easily pass it.
The additional subject exams have not yet been developed, and state board members would have to formally approve the policy. Federal officials would also have to sign off on the changes.
“A lot of principals and teachers say it’s going to make a big difference in how seriously kids take high school,” State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which obtained a confidential draft of the proposal.
Cox also warned against implementing the new testing system if it is approved without giving teachers enough time for training, saying that it could cut the graduation rate to 50 percent.
State lawmakers for years were preparing to replace the five-part graduation exam now given to high school juniors with End of Course tests eight standardized exams taken throughout a student’s high school career. The tests were introduced four years ago, but making the full switch was complicated by problems meeting federal standards in the No Child Left Behind Act.
State education administrators say new credit requirements that take effect next year will ensure that all public high school students take the same basic courses, and allow the tests to be used for granting proposals. New tests could be created for physics, government, world history and U.S. history courses. The writing section of the current graduation test would still be used, and some current end-of-course exams would be revised to conform to the new state curriculum.
The revised structure would increase the number of tests a student takes that are linked to a diploma. If the proposal is approved, the changes could go into effect for freshmen starting in 2009. Students entering high school before then would still take the old graduation test.
Georgia students usually perform worse on the end-of-course exams than they do on the graduation test. A report presented to the state education board this week warned that graduation rates and college enrollments could drop and the number of high schools failing federal academic standards could rise with the new testing.
Last school year, about 4,600 students didn’t earn diplomas because they couldn’t pass the current graduation test.
Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com
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