Grad exam could end

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, July 9, 2009

Local superintendents are expressing their support for a state board of education proposal that would completely revamp the state’s testing plan.

The plan, first suggested at a Thurs., June 25, meeting, would do away with the Alabama High School Graduation Exam (AHSGE) completely and would instead require all 11th graders to take the ACT.

Other proposed changes would include limiting the number of testing days across the board in the lower grades. The proposal will be considered again at the Tues., July 14, meeting of the state board of education, and would not be implemented until the 2011-12 school year.

It is a plan that all superintendents in Covington County said they would support.

“On the surface, it looks like something we would be in favor of,” said Terry Holley, interim superintendent at the Covington County Schools. “Too many days of the year are taken out for testing, and I think we would be in favor of any proposal that could limit that.”

Currently, high school students must pass at least three of the five sections of the AHSGE in order to graduate from high school. The proposal would eliminate the AHSGE, and replace it with regular end-of-course tests in the same subjects, similar to a final exam.

The score on that final exam would be only one of several factors in determining if a student passes the class, or graduates from high school.

“The decision to utilize end-of-course exams for high school students is one of the most logical decisions the state board could make,” Opp Superintendent Michael Smithart said. “End-of-course testing will retain the accountability aspect for schools, but it will relieve the ‘all or nothing’ facet of the graduation exam.”

The state board of education also proposes making it a requirement for all juniors to take the ACT college entrance exam, as well as a writing assessment. It would also implement three additional mandatory tests — all eighth graders would take Explore, a college-readiness assessment test; all sophomores would take PLAN, a ‘preliminary’ college assessment; and all seniors would take WorkKeys, a test that assesses job skills.

Other changes that are being considered would help limit testing days in the elementary and middle school grades.

Currently, students in grades three through eight take the Alabama Reading and Math Test, the Stanford-10 Achievement Test, the Alabama Science Assessment and the Alabama Direct Assessment of Writing. The proposal would combine those tests into one three-day assessment that would be cheaper and take up less school time.

Repeated attempts to reach Andalusia Superintendent Dr. Beverly McAnulty for comment were unsuccessful.