Miss. seniors get another shot to pass grad tests

Published 12:00 pm Friday, May 17, 2013

 Mississippi officials are trying to retest hundreds of high school seniors who flunked exams that are required for graduation.

Seniors statewide are streaming to Mississippi State University to get over the hurdle and receive diplomas with classmates. Any student who needs to pass only one exam to graduate is being offered the chance to try one more time.

Interim state Superintendent of Education Lynn House said more than 100 students registered for tests Thursday, and the state could give more tests than that Friday. MSU’s Research and Curriculum Unit is giving the exams, which normally cost as much as $250 per student, per test.

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“We need to do what we can to get students to graduate on time and that is one thing we could do,” said Wayne Gann of Corinth, chairman of the state Board of Education.

Gann said both he and House had received phone calls from school officials trying to win another chance for seniors. The Hazlehurst school district, for example, took seven students to MSU Thursday.

Since 2003, Mississippi public high school students seeking to graduate have been required to pass four subject-area tests — algebra I, English II, biology I and U.S. history.

Of the roughly 28,400 Mississippi seniors this year, about 3,000 have not passed all four tests, said James Mason of the state Department of Education.

Some are transfers from private schools or other states and aren’t required to pass tests for classes they completed elsewhere, Mason said. Other students haven’t passed the tests, but also haven’t completed classes required to graduate. Finally, some of those 3,000 are special education students who aren’t required to pass the tests.

Mason said that seniors typically get at least six chances to pass the subject-area tests. But the state rolled out a new U.S. history test last year. Students usually take that course as a junior, and may not have taken the exam as many times. Students take the other subjects that are tested as freshmen or sophomores, giving them more chances to pass those exams.

“There were several students across the state who were not successful in completing the American history test by one point or two points,” Gann said.

It usually takes 48 hours to score the standardized multiple-choice U.S. history test, but Mason said some students taking the test Thursday are trying to graduate Friday.

“We’re going to attempt to meet demand as long as we can test students before their graduation ceremony,” Mason said.

The tests are given four times a year, in September, December, March and May, and the seniors getting another chance may have failed the test as recently as two weeks ago. When asked whether taking the tests again so soon would help, Mason said “We’ll see.”