The graduation exam is 'make or break' for high school students. Either they pass or they don't graduate.
Robert E. Lee High School Principal David Sikes says test time is a stressful time for students and teachers. "It's a horrible day," he laments.
Students are schooled in reading, language, math, science and social studies - generally on an eleventh grade level, something Sikes says is "a lot to cram in there in a five day period." He adds that students look "mentally exhausted" by the final day.
Now, the Alabama Department of Education is considering phasing out the graduation exam. State Superintendent Doctor Joe Morton says an end of the course exam would give students more instruction time before they take the tests. "Now, we have to give those in March so you really don't get to cover, on the exam itself, the material other than what you might get to by the middle of March," Morton says.
Sikes believes on the surface it sounds like a good plan and thinks it would likely mean more students will graduate on time. "If they just had the course and it's fresh in their mind, I think most of these students would do better."
Currently, this is just an idea. At the earliest the graduation exam would be phased out by 2012. Morton says the State Board of Education is also considering phasing out the SAT 10 and revamping the Alabama Reading and Math test. That could happen by 2011 as a cost-saving measure.
Last year the board revised the graduation exam requirements. A student has to pass all five parts to get a standard diploma, but can get a "credit based' diploma if they pass three of five sections - two of which have to be reading and math.