More than 200 area seniors will not receive diplomas this year when they walk with their classmates during graduation ceremonies.
In Richmond County, 195 - or 11 percent - of the 1,775 seniors scheduled to graduate next month failed one or more portions of the Georgia High School Graduation Test and will receive a Certificate of Performance.
In Columbia County, 22 - or two percent - of the 1,106 seniors failed the exam.
The Certificate of Performance recognizes the students for completing their classwork and can be traded in when the student passes the missed portions of the state-required exit exam.
To pass, students have to score a 500 on all portions of the test - math, science, language arts, social studies and writing.
Last year, 34 of the 1,143 seniors in Columbia County failed parts of the test.
In Richmond County last year, 231 of the 1,738 graduating seniors failed parts of the exam.
"Our numbers are declining, and we will continue to work hard creating programs to help our students until we have a 100 percent passing rates," said Carol Rountree, director of guidance and testing for Richmond County schools.
In Columbia County, certificates of performance recently became an issue of debate among school board members as they grappled with who should be allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies.
Historically, high school seniors receiving certificates of performance have been allowed to participate in commencement. But in March, Columbia County school board members voted to revise the school system's graduation policy so that only students receiving diplomas be allowed to march. That change will not affect the 2000 ceremonies, but principals will inform audiences which students participating are receiving diplomas and which are getting certificates.
At Evans High School, three of the 345 seniors eligible to graduate will receive certificates of performance instead of diplomas. Of the 269 seniors at Greenbrier High School, six will receive certificates of performance. Of the 167 Harlem High School seniors, 10 will receive certificates of performance. And at Lakeside High School, three of the school's 325 seniors will receive a certificate of performance.
Richmond County Superintendent Charles Larke said he's hoping the end-of-year testing - which is being discussed by the state department of education - will replace the graduation test by next year.
"I think we all know there is a problem with the science portion," Dr. Larke said. "So many students all over the state of Georgia are being denied a diploma because of one section: science."
Reach Faith Johnson and Peggy Ussery at (706) 724-0851.