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State plan calls for changes to grad exam requirements

By Staff
Leada Gore, Hartselle Enquirer
A proposal from State Superintendent Dr. Joseph Morton has local school officials scrambling to prepare for adjustments that could affect this year’s seniors.
The plan would change requirements related to passing the five-part graduation exam. Currently, students are required to pass all portions: math, reading, language, social studies and science. Morton’s new plan will allow students who have passed all their classes to graduate by passing the math, reading and one other section. These students would earn what Morton’s calling a “credit-based” diploma.
The new diploma is one of the changes the state Board of Education will be voting on at its May 8 meeting. The credit-based diploma portion of the plan would go into effect immediately, clearing the way for some students to graduate this year.
The immediacy of the plan, along with some other portions that will require wide-ranging changes by the school system, concerns Hartselle Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed.
Reed said if the plan is adopted, it would allow some Hartselle students who otherwise wouldn’t graduate to do so. Hartselle’s graduation test passage rate is high, he said, so those changes would effect only a small number of students.
However, Morton’s plan would also require all freshmen who start school in fall 2009 to automatically enter the advanced academic diploma track. The students would be required to take tougher math courses, including trigonometry, and two years of a foreign language. Students could opt out of the advanced track with parental permission.
“We’re looking at possibly having to add a foreign language in the next year,” Reed said. “If you require all freshmen to take foreign language, there are not enough foreign language teachers in the state.”
All students would also be required to take at least one distance-learning or online course.
Reed said he supports the distance and online learning concept and Hartselle’s ACCESS learning site makes this a possibility here.
Other parts of the plan include allowing students who fail a subject to retake only the chapters they missed and allow other students to take tests to skip certain subjects and graduate early.
Morton introduced his plan in February and wanted it to take effect this fall. Superintendents asked for more time and Morton agreed to move some of the portions to 2009. He also said he’s considering allowing local school systems to opt out of the credit-based diploma, credit recovery and letting students skip certain courses. The advanced track diploma and distance learning elements will be mandatory, however.

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