High school graduation requirements are changing in Alabama. The state board of education has passed a measure that will require more study of most students. But for others who have trouble passing the graduation exam, the changes will make it easier for them graduate.
A vast majority of high school seniors -- 92% of them -- are able to pass all five portions of the state graduation exam. The other 8% are not allowed to graduate and often drop out of school.
LaDon Findley's son is one of those students who is falling through the cracks. Findley spoke during a public hearing at Thursday's school board meeting.
"It would be so devastating to go all the way through school and get to the very end and not be able to walk," he said.
Another father, Jimmy Allen, also spoke to the board. His son has been accepted to a college, but cannot pass one portion of the graduation exam.
"He's passed his courses. He's done everything except pass one part of the test," Allen said. "A standardized test doesn't measure everybody's ability."
School board members seemed to agree. They unanimously voted to allow students to graduate with a basic diploma if they pass at least three portions of the graduation exam.
But the vote wasn't really about making high school easier. For a majority of students, it will actually make getting a diploma more difficult.
"Some people tend to inch that term 'watering down' into this discussion and there really is no 'watering down,'" said State School Superintendent Joe Morton.
The school board also voted to strengthen the advanced diploma program by requiring additional math and foreign language classes. And beginning next year, students will be automatically enrolled in the advanced program. They can only opt out with permission from a parent.
"Rather than volunteer (for the advanced program), we're going to volunteer you," Morton explained.
Overall, Morton says the changes will increase the number of students with advanced diplomas and decrease the number of students who drop out.