Local educators are applauding a decision this week by the state Board of Education to phase out the Georgia High School Graduation Test.
Under the plan approved Wednesday, students who enter high school in fall 2011 will no longer need to pass the test to graduate.
"This is a positive step forward," said Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield. "This test includes a lot of content that the student has not seen or used in two or three years. It's a really challenge for them to pull that knowledge back up."
Schofield said end-of-course tests - taken as soon as students complete a subject - are better indicators of what a student has learned, and state Superintendent John Barge agrees. Under the new plan pushed by Barge, end-of-course tests will now count for 20 percent of a student's final grade, up from the current 15 percent.
Also, end-of-course tests will replace the graduation test as a measure of whether a school makes adequate yearly progress, a benchmark of No Child Left Behind, state officials said in a news release.
Barge said Georgia has been trying to eliminate the state graduation test for more than a decade.
"I appreciate the State Board's vote that finally allows us to move away from the (graduation test)," Barge said in a statement. He said end-of-course exams "are much more rigorous, and they test a student immediately following a course, rather than waiting until a student's Junior year to determine whether or not he or she has mastered the content of our curriculum."
All students are required by state law to pass eight mandatory classes in order to graduate. By upping how much the end-of-course tests count, the board is telling students these tests are the most important, Barge said.
All students still must pass the state writing test, which was one part of the five-part graduation test.
Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the move away from the graduation test could ease the pressure some students experience.
"It gives students the time to spread out these high-stakes testing," she said, adding that the end-of-course strategy allows educators to give more re-education and retesting of students who fall short of their goals.
In 2000, then-Gov. Roy Barnes pushed to the graduation test with end-of-course tests. The state board has considered the idea several times, but took no action on the plan until last week.
A number of other states also are moving to end-of-course testing.