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Alabama exit exam on way out

The Alabama Department of Education will cease to administer the state high school graduation exam starting during the 2011-2012 school year. Starting that year, students entering the ninth grade will begin taking end-of-course exams instead, testing students on individual courses.

Ninth-graders who enrolled prior to the 2011-12 school year will take the graduation exam.

The graduating class of 2014-2015 will be the first group to complete full EOC testing requirements, Chilton County Board of Education Testing Coordinator Pam Harris said.

She said the state department has not finished making the EOC exams and that her office has not been told what those tests will target specifically.

The new testing format serves as a more cost-effective model. Harris said school systems will not purchase as many testing books and answer documents that are fairly expensive.

The graduation exam for this year’s class was administered in March. They will be notified of results sometime in April.

The test will also be given this summer during the week of July 12-16 to repeating juniors, incoming seniors and students who exited the school without receiving a diploma.

Along with obtaining all credits in high school, students must past all five portions of the graduation exam to receive a standard or advanced diploma.

Seniors who only pass the reading and math portions can also pass at least one more test — including language, biology or social studies — to obtain a credit-based diploma. Harris said state-funded universities recognize credit-based diplomas. Private universities can choose whether to do so or not.

The biggest changes the transition will cause will be determined throughout the next few years, Harris said.

Along with the ACT-plus and Explorer exams, the EOC classes will help students understand where they are academically heading into life after high school, Harris said.

“This is giving students more opportunities to prepare themselves,” she said.

“I think students taking all of the tests will have a chance to see what they’re capable of doing.

“Some people feel like educational systems aren’t preparing the kids for a world of work or life after high school. But kids are exposed to way more than when I was in high school.”

Harris said once the new testing format is firmly in place, it will reduce costs in terms of test printing and shipping.

EOC exams would be held right before the end of each semester. Harris said she does not yet know the level of difficulty of the tests. She said they would be based on the state curriculum.

“If schools are teaching the course of study, the students should be able to pass the tests.”