Over 3000 Former High School Students Qualify for Diploma

As of July 1st, former Alaskan public high school students that failed the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam and received a certificate of achievement are eligible for a high school diploma. 

Governor Sean Parnell signed House Bill 278 which rid the state of the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam.  The exit exam was intended to make sure high students were learning everything necessary.   However, a student could get passing grades in school but, if they didn’t pass the exit exam, they would not graduate.  That left over 3,000 high school students between 2004 and now without a diploma. 

Information officer for the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development Eric Fry says now that the state is no longer requiring that students take the exit exam, it’s only fair that those who failed are retroactively granted a diploma.

“High School Graduation Qualifying Exam which consisted of sections in reading, writing and math.  They had to reach a particular score to graduate.  Now what they’re saying is now in terms of test, students have to take the SAT, ACT or the Work Keys test.  They don’t have to reach a certain score they just have to take those tests.  Those tests will be paid for by the state.  The idea being to encourage students to take a college ready exam that’s more suited for their needs.”

The bill comes into law during a summer that will see the change of the standardized testing system and the way districts are rated in Alaska.

Students who are interested in obtaining their diploma should contact their district.  If the student’s address has changed since the student was in high school, the family is encouraged to contact the district to find out if the student is eligible. 

SC high school diploma takes a hit

This editorial was printed Friday in The Island Packet of Hilton Head.

The Beaufort County School District and other districts around the state made a logical decision last month to allow high school seniors who had met all graduation requirements except passage of the exit exam to participate in graduation ceremonies.

The state legislature had just eliminated the exit exam, a basic math and English skills test, as a graduation requirement. There would have been little point in adherence to a rule that was about to disappear.

However, we disagree with the state’s decision to extend the forgiveness policy all the way back to 1990, meaning that any student since 1990 can petition their former school district for a diploma if they met all graduation requirements save for passing the exit exam.

Since 1990, many students around the state have worked hard to master the skills and pass the test. To invalidate a rule of the past is to undermine their work. The move not only diminishes the achievement of all who have received a S.C. diploma but the validity of the diploma itself.

And we’re not convinced the change helps that many residents. Most likely, former Beaufort County high school students denied a traditional diploma because they could not pass the test have earned GEDs instead, a high school equivalency credential. So far, about half a dozen students have petitioned the Beaufort County School District.

It’s not as if lawmakers are saying an exit exam is a bad idea and the state doesn’t need one anymore. The old exit exam is being replaced with two new tests. We’re glad to see the adoption of these two superior assessments, which will help steer students toward additional coursework and careers that suit their skill sets. They are indeed better tests than the old one.

But that doesn’t mean that the hard work of students who took and passed the old test – no matter how flawed the test seems by today’s academic standards – should be diminished.

It’s unfortunate that their success, and the S.C. diploma, are now taking an undeserved hit.