Students Graduate Without Passing Standardized Tests

Brelyn Jefferson

Staff Writer, 5 Rights News


Marion County schools say they are graduating seniors at a high rate of between 64 and 91 percent.
This percentage has been increasing, especially within the last year.

But some of those graduates didn’t meet a big state requirement of passing a graduation test.
Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White thinks special waivers that allow students to graduate without passing the test benefit them.

“If the state doesn’t want us to use it, eliminate it. I have no problem with it. As long as we have it as a mechanism, don’t knock us for using it,” said White.

On the other hand, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett “respectfully disagrees” with White.

“We have to remember that passing English/Language Arts at 10th grade and Algebra 1 is a minimum standard,” Bennett said.  “We know the vast majority of those who graduate using waivers will need remediation in college. On top of that, it negatively impacts a students’ chance of graduating from college.”

End-of-course assessments are required for all Indiana schools. They are taken by all students, and everyone must pass them in order to be eligible for graduation; according to state law.

ECA tests are administered to ensure that students have the minimum 10th grade education criteria necessary to graduate and the potential to make it and be properly prepared for life after high school.

According to calculations of state records, about 8 percent of Indiana graduates receive a diploma even though they never pass all of their courses. They use an exception in state law known commonly as a “waiver.”

In order to qualify for a waiver, students must:

-Take all of the opportunities offered to students to try the test again.
-Have at least a C average in the subject areas of English and Math.
-Have 95 percent average attendance rate for all four years.
-Have recommendation letters; one from the teacher in the subject not passed and one from the principal.     Who approves?

By using waivers to award diplomas to students who otherwise would not qualify, school districts are able to improve their graduation rates, sometimes dramatically. For Indianapolis Public Schools, last year’s graduation rate of 64.6 percent would have dropped by 17 points to 47.3 percent if not for waivers. In Pike Township, waivers helped raise the graduation rate 11.3 points to 91.8 percent from 80.5 percent.

The percent of students who used the waiver has been slowly increasing  throughout Indiana.

The amount of waivers used in Marion County is higher in more suburban areas such as Hamilton County.

But in Marion County, some school officials think waivers make sense for certain types of students. Pike High School principal Troy Inman thinks the waiver only should  be used in “special circumstances,” such as students who have language barriers that hurt their test taking abilities.

Principal Troy Inman said it’s up to teachers to get kids to pass so they will not be at a disadvantage in life. Waivers, he said, “should be used sparingly.”

“Teachers should be doing whatever they can to help them pass,” he said. “There should be a correlation between what they learn and passing the exam.”

Students who are in danger of not graduating because of the ECA think the tests are not fair.   Brent Williams, a recent Arlington High School graduate is one of these people.

“It’s just shoving them through,” he said about the way students are being sent out into the world, ready or not. He got help in passing his Algebra ECA from a very encouraging teacher.

An Arlington High School recent graduate who passed the ECA, Ciara Mercedes Blaine, is worried about classmates who did not pass the ECA. “I know it’s going to be hard for them,” she said of their futures. They risk not being very successful in college and are at a disadvantage, she said, they are a step behind.

“That test was just ridiculous. What’s it prove? I have my classes and my credits done.” Lorenzo Lay, who also graduated from Arlington High School, said.  He did not pass the Algebra ECA and received a waiver.

He does not want to let that test define what other accomplishments he has made in high school or his future ones.

Lay will attend Ivy Tech Community College this fall to be a graphic designer and does not think failing the Algebra ECA will affect him.  “I feel I’m ready.”

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