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.