Originally created 06/05/99

14 percent of city seniors fail exam



Nearly 14 percent of the Richmond County seniors who recently participated in graduation ceremonies did not receive a high school diploma.

Of the 1,738 seniors, 231 failed one or more portions of the mandatory Georgia High School Graduation Test.

And unless the students transferred to Richmond County from another state, they had five chances, since their junior year, to pass the test.

The students will get a sixth chance next month. If they pass, they will get to trade in the Certificate of Performance, received during graduation ceremonies, for their diploma.

"The state recognizes the Certificate of Performance as a credential for completing their class work," said Carol Rountree, director of Guidance, Testing & Research for Richmond County schools. "They have done everything but pass the exit exam."

Of the 290 Richmond County seniors who still needed to pass the test to graduate, only 59, or about 20 percent, passed.

To pass, students have to make a 500 on all portions of the test -- math, language arts, social studies and science. If they fail, a re-test is required on any missed portion.

Superintendent Charles Larke said the test needs to be analyzed.

"We need to make sure we don't run into things on the test that are not being taught in the classrooms," Dr. Larke said. "Material that's being taught to college prep students might not necessarily be taught to vocational students. We have to make sure information on the test is fair to all students."

Mrs. Rountree said parents have gotten used to the 5-year-old test. She received more complaints about students failing last year when the science portion was added.

Last year and this year, 37 percent of Richmond County students taking the science portion of the test failed.

In Georgia, about one-third of the students failed the science section and less than one in five students taking the test this year won a new "pass plus" rating for students who perform higher than the basic level on the test.

Mrs. Rountree said the test is a good way to measure students' comprehension of classwork. And overall, only a small percentage of students in Richmond County who take the test for the first time fail.

In Columbia County, 34 seniors didn't pass one or more portions of the test.

At Evans High School, six of the 361 students set to graduate on Saturday will not receive a diploma because they failed one or more portions of the exit exam. At Harlem High School, 14 out of 175 total graduates will not receive diplomas for the same reason. Of the 332 seniors to graduate from Lakeside High School, three students will not receive diplomas. And of the 275 graduating seniors at Greenbrier High School, 11 will not receive diplomas.

Staff Writer Peggy Ussery contributed to this report.

Faith Johnson covers education. She can be reached at (706) 823-3765 or faithj@augustachronicle.com.