Houston County nixes final exam exemptions

alopez@macon.comJune 10, 2014 

ANDRES DAVID LOPEZ — alopez@macon.com Buy Photo

PERRY -- For decades, Houston County high school students in certain classes who met attendance, behavior and academic performance criteria were exempt from taking a final exam.

Next year, all that changes when exemptions are cut entirely.

Some core courses, such as ninth-grade literature and U.S. history, previously required students to take End of Course Tests, but now all high school courses in Houston County will require a final exam that will represent 20 percent of a student’s final grade.

The Houston County school board voted 5-0 Tuesday to revise its policy on class examinations, though not without concerns from several board members.

During Monday’s work session, board Vice Chairman Fred Wilson pointed out that final exam exemptions have been a source of pride for students who earned them. He asked whether the new policy will take away an incentive from those students.

Michelle Masters, assistant superintendent of school operations, said district high school principals are aware that may be the case, so they are developing strategies to replace the incentive of final exam exemptions.

Board member Jim Maddox said Tuesday he has always advocated that students take final exams to prepare them for taking exams in college classes.

“When they get to the next level, they’re going to take finals,” he said. “They need to be prepared.”

Board Chairwoman Marianne Melnick said the revision to the exam policy was prompted by policies created at the state level.

In order to evaluate teachers as part of the new Teacher Keys Effectiveness System, which will be implemented across the state this fall, districts were asked to develop Student Learning Objectives for courses offered. Along with the goals written into the Student Learning Objectives, assessments must be given to measure student growth and teacher effectiveness.

A tentative budget and new principal

In other business Tuesday, the board voted 5-0 to give tentative approval to the fiscal 2015 budget. An advertisement summarizing the tentative budget will appear in the county’s legal organ for the next two weeks, and the board will take a final vote June 26 at a special called meeting at Houston County High School.

The board also voted unanimously to approve Douglas Rizer as the new principal of Houston County High School. Rizer has served as a principal in Houston County for 12 years, most recently at Lake Joy Elementary.

As soon as the board finalized the vote, Masters was on her phone trying to deliver the good news to her colleague.

“He’s extremely excited,” said Masters, who was the principal of Houston County High until last month when she was assigned to the central office.

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 256-9751.

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