Schools no longer requiring graduation exam

Published 10:07 am Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This year's high school seniors are the first students in more than 30 years who don't have to take the state's graduation exam to graduate. (File)

This year’s high school seniors are the first students in more than 30 years who don’t have to take the state’s graduation exam to graduate. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Seniors in Alabama’s local schools are the first students in decades who don’t have to pass the Alabama high school graduation exam to graduate, and local school leaders said they are glad to see the requirement dropped.

For more than 30 years, high school seniors in Alabama were required to pass the graduation exam before earning their diplomas. In 2009, the Alabama Department of Education agreed to start phasing out the exam as a graduation requirement for students who entered ninth grade in 2010.

Because most of those students are now high school seniors, they will be the first class to graduate under the state’s new college and career readiness standards.

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Randy Fuller said the graduation exam was outdated, and did not serve as an accurate indicator for students’ career and college readiness after high school.

Alabaster City Schools Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers said the new college and career readiness standards will require end-of-course tests for major classes, and will better prepare students for life after high school.

Although the graduation exam is no longer required for graduation, the test will still be open to any student who previously failed or did not attempt any sections of the test, said Shelby County Schools spokesperson Cindy Warner.

High school students also will now take the ACT test during their junior year, which will serve as a benchmark for students’ college readiness, Fuller said.

“The graduation exam was a pass or fail type of assessment and wasn’t based on current standards,” Fuller said. “It also didn’t indicate college and career readiness.  We are excited about the implementation of the ACT for juniors because it will give us an indication of college and career readiness benchmark scores.”

Vickers said the graduation exam often served as a “barrier” to students who were otherwise successful during their school tenures.

“It takes away a barrier to students who otherwise worked hard, passed all their classes and earned all their credits,” Vickers said. “From a parent’s perspective, you may have a child that’s just not a good test-taker. They should have another path available to them.

“I think it should mean something when they do what we ask of them in class,” Vickers added.