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Retroactive change in grad tests called a life-changer
Deal signs law waiving former students' requirement for diploma
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Former students who met graduation requirements but did not pass the Georgia High School Graduation Test now can petition for their diploma.

House Bill 91 was signed into law Monday by Gov. Nathan Deal, retroactively eliminating the Georgia High School Graduation Test as a requirement for graduation.

“This is the legislation that will eliminate the requirement of passing the graduation test for individuals who have met all other requirements to receive a high school diploma,” Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield wrote in an email Monday. “This is a life-changer for thousands of Georgians.”

The bill does not eliminate the test, which was already replaced by End of Course Tests in 2011. Students this year are taking end-of-course and end-of-grade assessments through the Georgia Milestones, which are designed to determine a student’s readiness for their next level of learning, be it the next grade or course, for college or a career.

However, past students who were required to take the state graduation test and still do not have a high school diploma because they failed to earn a passing score now will be able to petition their local school boards to determine their eligibility to obtain their diploma.

“While in 2011 the State Board of Education eliminated the test as a requirement for graduation, it did not extend to students who were unsuccessful on the test prior to that time,” state Superintendent Richard Woods said in a statement. “House Bill 91 makes it possible for those students to finally obtain their high school diploma so they can move on to a brighter future.”

Woods also clarified the law is effective for any student, currently or previously enrolled, who met all requirements except passing either the state graduation test, the Georgia High School Writing Test or the Basic Skills Test, which was first administered in 1981.

According to a release from Hall County Schools, the first of many anticipated requests from former students was made Monday soon after the law was signed.

Yosselyn Carcamo, a former Lanier Charter Career Academy student, became the first in the county to file such a request. According to the release, she was recently informed by her employer she needed a high school diploma to retain her job.

According to Schofield, who was present for the bill’s signing Monday, the school district receives as many as 60 requests each year for waivers of the state graduation test, but most students don’t even request the option. Before the bill was passed, he estimated half of those have been approved each year.

“I estimate in the HCSD alone, 1,500-2,000 students over the past 20 years have met all requirements to graduate, with the exception of passing one or more sections of the (graduation test),” he said.

Rep. Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, who sponsored the legislation, previously told the House the bill could affect as many as 8,000 people.

“A week does not go by that we don’t receive a phone call, visit, e-mail or in person visit from someone 19 to 35 years old pleading for any hope to exempt a section of the test, receive their diploma, and get on with their lives,” Schofield said.

Schofield said the legislation is “long overdue,” and commended Coleman and all those who championed the legislation.

“The Hall County School District will be putting together a plan to disseminate this information and create a support system to educate affected individuals regarding potential educational and career options,” Schofield said.

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