It’s high school graduation time in metro Atlanta and many will hold ceremonies tonight.
Some seniors won’t graduate because they can’t pass the Georgia High School Graduation Test – a series of exams designed to make sure students learned what the state says they should know in math, science, English and social studies.
About 4,000 high school students fail some part of this test each year. Many will pass on retests but some never will, meaning they will be denied a diploma.
I and other reporters get dozens of emails around this time of years from frustrated parents and students. The State Board of Education will grant waivers in some cases, but many will be denied.
Proponents say the tests — which are not as hard as the End of Course Tests (EOCT) — are a way to guarantee that students leave high school with basic skills to succeed. They say these tests are a way to raise student achievement. (The results are used to comply with No Child Left Behind.)
But critics say exit exams are unfair. They point to statistics showing poor and minority students struggle the most with these tests. Some argue the tests punish the students for faulty or lax teaching. Others say principals and teachers are able to determine without the state’s exam whether a student should graduate.
Should we require students to pass an exam before they earn a high school diploma? What should be on that test?