Thousands of high school seniors in Mississippi are starting to receive their diplomas. But according to the state Department of Education, nearly one-in-four public school students fail to graduate. Education officials have eliminated one of the state's requirements for graduation as a way to raise graduation rates.
For nearly three decades, students have been required to pass a set of exams known as the Subject Area Tests in order to graduate. The exams assess a student’s knowledge in Algebra One, English Two, U-S History and Biology.
18-year-old Quenjadra Knott, a senior at Murrah High School in Jackson. She says classmates dropout because they couldn't pass the test.
"The test plays a major part in the graduation, the dropout," says Knott. "When they think of the test, they think 'Oh well, I might as well stop now because I've taken it three times, or I've taken it four times, and I see I'm not graduating. I might as well give up now and stop."
But this spring, the Mississippi Board of Education, voted to eliminate the requirement that students pass all four sections of the exam before they can graduate. Opting instead to fold the tests into a student’s end of the year grade, like a final exam. Carey Wright is the Superintendent of Education.
"I think you will see more kids graduating," Wright says. "I do. To me it's taking into account all of their experience in that class. It's not just taking into account that day they took the test."
Wright went on to say by including test scores in final grades students who do well in class, but perform poorly on the test should still be able graduate. If they do poorly in class as well as on the test, then they may be held back.