Under a new state law, 130 former students in Upson County who were denied their diploma because they failed one or two high school graduation tests, have now received their diplomas.
House Bill 91 was signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal on March 30, 2015. The law retroactively eliminates the Georgia High School Graduation Test as a requirement for high school graduation. The Graduation Test was established in 1994. A State Board of Education Rule in 2011 eliminated the test as a requirement for graduation, but that elimination did not extend to students who had already taken the test.
The law covers all graduation tests, including the Georgia High School Graduation Test that had been in place since 1994, and going all the way back to the Basic Skills Test given to students who enrolled in high school on or after July 1, 1981. Former students who were denied their diplomas due to failing these tests must petition the school system where they were students for their diploma. The system will verify the students’ records and issue the diplomas.
Thomaston-Upson School Superintendent Dr. Maggie Shook told the Board of Education at their meeting on July 21 that from May 31 through June 30, the school system has given 130 diplomas. Statewide through the same period, 10,325 diplomas have been issued, and more are expected to be issued as former students become aware of the new law.
The number of diplomas provided will not affect a school’s graduation rate.
In other school business, the weighting of grades for Honors, Advanced Placement (AP) and Dual Enrollment courses in the Thomaston-Upson School System will not begin until the 2016-2017 school year. And when it does, the weight for AP and Dual Enrollment courses will be the same.
In June, the Board of Education approved a new policy which would “weight” grades to the upper level classes students take at Upson-Lee High School and/or at local colleges. Grades are weighted by adding points to the grades, depending on the rigor or toughness of the courses. By adding points to the grades, students’ Grade Point Averages (GPA) can increase to show the effort they make to pass the upper level classes.
The decision to weigh the grades was made after it was discovered that the other eight school systems in the Griffin RESA ((Regional Education Service Agency) are already weighting their grades. At the time, the weights were adding 5 points for Honors classes, 8 points for AP classes, and 10 points for Dual Enrollment classes. It was also thought the weighting system would begin in the upcoming 2015-2016 school year.
But at the BOE meeting on July 21, School Superintendent Dr. Maggie Shook stated that concerns had been expressed about beginning the weight system so close to the start of the school year, after students have already chosen their classes. It was felt that if students had known the upper level classes were going to have weights added, they may have chosen their classes differently, and that by adding the weights now, it would affect the GPA calculations for honor graduates, as well as for valedictorian and salutatorian. Dr. Shook said school staff also felt that the weights for AP and Dual Enrollment classes should be the same.
“The recommendation of the high school staff is we make the weights equal for AP and Dual Enrollment classes by adding 10 points each, instead of eight and 10 points, and this is in agreement with six of the eight school systems in the RESA District,” Dr. Shook told the board. “I also recommend that we postpone implementing this change until the start of the 2016-17 school year, because this will give students time to plan their classes. I think for the benefit of all students, and especially for calculating GPA for honors graduates, if we waited one year to implement this, it would be the most fair thing for everybody.”
Since the policy itself had already been approved by the board in June, their approval was not needed for the change. The policy will be added to the ULHS Handbook for the 2016-2017 school year.
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.