Students taking state graduation exam

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This week, students throughout the state are in the process of proving just how much they’ve learned inside the classroom as they take the Alabama High School Graduation Exam (AHSGE) — a precursor to earning a high school diploma.

To earn a diploma, students must not only earn 24 credit hours of “core classes” like math, reading and science, but they must also pass all five sections of the AHSGE —reading, language, mathematics, science and social studies. Each section is comprised of approximately 100 multiple-choice.

Testing began Monday for students in grades 10-12. Each year, students have the option to take the test four times during the school year.

Bob Harry, special programs coordinator for Andalusia City School System, said the goal of the test is to gauge the education process of the student.

“Students are taught courses of study in each of the core subjects, and they have to meet a proficiency level in each of the content areas,” Harry said. “This test has gone on record as being one of the most rigorous exams in the nation, and students begin preparing early in their academic year to pass it.”

Harry said students first have their first opportunity to take the test in the 10th grade.

“This is what we call a checkpoint,” he said. “If a student passes any of the subject-area tests, they are given a credit for that test. The second test is given in the spring of their 11th grade year. After this test, if they don’t pass, it can be taken again during any subsequent administration.”

Harry said those other chances to take the test occur in the July following 11th grade, September of the 12th grade and March of the 12th grade.

“Really, it’s a pass or fail test,” he said. “You take it until you pass it. You have to pass to get a diploma.”

Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart said the exam is the ultimate example of “high stakes testing.”

“I realize that we as school districts are measured based upon the results of those taking the test, but for an individual student the stakes are much higher,” he said. “Our job is to make certain our students have the best opportunity we can provide to be successful on the AHSGE. In addition to the regular classroom where the content is initially taught, we offer both in-school and after-school remediation as well as one-on-one with our graduation coach.”

Students are allowed to take the test until they pass it. There is an option available for those who do not pass the AHSGE — the Alabama Alternate Adult High School Diploma. Students must pass required course credits and take and pass the Test of General Educational Development (GED) to get this diploma.

The testing will conclude on Friday.