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Recommendation may keep education integrity intact

It appears that Louisiana is about to take the correct step in resolving the difficulties posed by the new “career” diploma, but, as is typical, resolution of the details will be the most important step.

The High School Redesign Committee overwhelmingly passed a recommendation to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that students pursuing this diploma, only recently introduced which requires a less-rigorous curriculum than the “traditional” diploma, pass the same exit exam as other students. Passage of this test is required for graduation.

Rather, passage of choices from among tests is required, as the nature of the exit exam process is about to change. The state’s Department of Education recently approved moving away from the Graduate Exit Exam, which compiled questions from the areas of English, mathematics, social studies, and the sciences and of which students had to pass the first two areas and one of the other two. Now instead, what are more properly termed “end of course” exams will be administered. They will mandate passage of Algebra I or geometry, English 2 or English 3, and of biology or American History.

This makes some sense as it would allow for later taking of the exams in a student’s career (some were taking the GEE as early as their sophomore years) to allow for more time to acquire knowledge and may create better alignment of material learned and tested. However, BESE must be wary that the overall rigor present in the GEE not be decreased in the formulation of these new exams. In other words, if the GEE had math questions beyond Algebra I and geometry now these would be eliminated and the reduced rigor, if that applies overall across all subject areas tests, would produce a disservice to the students and the state.

Hopefully, this will not be the case. If so, the new diploma will become a benign development and not reduce standards as many feared its initiation would bring. While it still may handicap students that pursue it in that will not prepare them for college who then later in life may want to go to college, whatever enhanced vocational training it may provide might outweigh that cost. BESE needs to adopt this recommendation.

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