State aims to replace exit exams

For years, Richmond County school officials have complained about the state's exit exams, tests that are sometimes a barrier between students and their graduation.

Now the State Department of Education is considering phasing out the five-part Georgia High School Graduation Test, replacing it with a new series of nine tests.

"What we have at this time is some initial ideas," said Chris Domaleski, the state's associate superintendent in the Assessment and Accountability Office of Standards, Instruction and Assessment. "It would be hard for me stress just how nascent this idea is right now."

As the proposal stands, the new tests would also replace the existing End of Course Tests, and as the name suggests, would be administered immediately after the student completes the class. Dr. Domaleski called it "more appropriate" to test then.

Currently, End of Course Tests count for a portion of a class's grade, and the high school graduation test, administered in 11th grade, determines whether a student receives a diploma or a certificate of completion.

Dr. Domaleski said there are still many questions that need to be answered.

For instance, the department must set the number of tests that students must pass to receive a diploma, determine the costs and review how the proposed changes would affect graduation rates, the associate superintendent said.

Dr. Domaleski said the new tests would better correspond with Georgia's new curriculum and its recently approved graduation rules.

Carol Rountree, Richmond County's director of guidance, testing and research, is reserving her opinion of the test until she learns more about it.

"It was very frustrating trying to explain to students why they had to take two tests," Dr. Rountree said. "This one is to determine whether you graduate, and this one is to show much you learned."

With the test given at the end of a class, it should be a more valid assessment of what a student learned, she said.

During the past several years, Richmond County school officials often have asked the state to phase out the Georgia High School Graduation Test, citing Georgia House Bill 1187. According to the law, the graduation tests would be eliminated after end of course tests were established.

Dr. Domaleski said the department is still unsure how the law affects the proposal.

If the State Board of Education approves the proposal, the earliest it would go into effect would be for freshmen entering in the 2008-09 school year.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.