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State proposes alternative high school graduation options

Every year, high school students scramble to find summer jobs. (WTVA)
Every year, high school students scramble to find summer jobs. (WTVA)
Reported by: Tyler Hill
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Updated: 10/30/2013 10:20 pm
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) - Before graduating, Mississippi high school students must pass a series of subject area tests, and over the years, those test have become more rigorous, preventing some students from graduating.

However, a new proposal is in the works that will help those struggling students.

Tupelo High School Principal Jason Harris said it's long overdue. "We're one of the few states that hasn't offered different option for students to graduate," Harris said.

The Mississippi Department of Education has proposed a list of options students can take to graduate if they fail a subject area test.

"Mississippi is looking at offering the potential of seven different options," said Tupelo School District Superintendent Gearl Loden.

Under current law, students must pass four separate test before they can graduate, including Algebra, biology, U.S. History and English II.

"I'd hate to know in life that we come down to just this one test," Loden said.

One of the popular options among administrations is the ACT route.

"I think that would be the one that most students take advantage of," Harris said.

Under this option, students would be able to replace the subject area test with an ACT score of 16 or higher.

For example, if a student fails the U.S. History exam but makes at least a 16 on the history portion of the ACT, then the student will be on track to graduate.

"Even though these are additional assessments, most of them are assessments students will take anyway," Loden explained. "Most of our students who graduate take the ACT."

Some said the options make it too easy for students to graduate, but Harris said he disagrees.

"If you look at the assessments that students now take in high school and the rigor and the level that students are expected to answer, I'd definitely say things are not easier," he said.

"My generation did not have to have state assessments to graduate," Loden said. "We only had to pass with 18 credits. Generations before me only had to have 16, but now, students have to have 26."

There is one flaw with the ACT route, however.

If students make a 16 or higher on the ACT portions before they take the subject area test, what incentive will they have to study?

"That is one of the little hiccups that we've noticed in this particular model," Harris said. "I think hopefully with incentives and different things a student would show up and put forth his or her best effort in passing the state exam."

The Board of Education is collecting opinions from the public and school districts across the state, and they are expected to vote in January.

The following is the list of options:

* Obtain a score of 16 or higher on the subject subscore of the ACT

* Earn a "C" or higher in an entry level, credit-breading dual enrollment/dual credit/ college credit course with a MAT prefix.

* Score a 2 or higher on the IB (International Baccalaureate) assessment.

* Score a 2 or higher on any AP (Advanced Placement) assessment.

* Score a 43 or higher on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test)

* Obtain an ASVAB AFQT score of 36 plus one of the following:
        * Earn a CPAS (Career Planning and Assessment System) score that meets the attainment level assigned by                  Federal Perkins requirements.
        * Earn an approved Industry Certification

* Obtain the Silver Level on the ACT WorkKeys

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