Test to determine who walks in Bibb graduation ceremonies

In the future, Bibb County school students will have to pass the Georgia High School Graduation Test in order to participate in graduation ceremonies, school board members voted Thursday during a committee meeting.

The change wouldn’t take effect for a few years, though. It would start when this year’s class of freshmen are seniors in 2013.

Now, the only leverage that principals have to get those borderline graduates to complete their testing requirements is withholding that rite of passage, Hutchings Career Center principal Ron McCall said.

“It’s not meant to be punitive. It’s an incentive for our students to work harder so they can graduate with their peers,” he said.

This past spring, 95 Bibb seniors out of 1,152 didn’t pass the state exam.

They were allowed to walk in and out during graduation exercises, but an asterisk was placed by each of their names on the commencement program denoting a “work in progress.”

School officials ran into problems when, after graduation, those students didn’t return to retake the exam and were being counted as dropouts, lowering the system’s graduation rate.

McCall said the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, through which Bibb is accredited, noted that Bibb needed an aggressive plan to increase its graduation rate.

“We’re doing it in enough time to notify students,” he said. “And if students do their absolute best and mess up on the test and do remediation in the summer, they can still participate in the summer graduation.”

The board is scheduled to vote again Thursday for the change to become official.

The board also voted during its committee meeting to make it more difficult for high school students, starting in 2013, to be promoted to the next grade level if they don’t master their core subject classes.

Superintendent Sharon Patterson recommended a change to the system’s promotion policy. Starting with the class of 2013, students will have to pass their math, science, social studies and language arts classes to move up a grade.

“That will create an urgency for students to get this done,” said Cathy Magouyrk, deputy superintendent for teaching and learning.

Currently, students are promoted from grade to grade based on credits without considering what courses were passed, she said.

That, too, has affected students’ ability to pass the Georgia High School Graduation Test — and the system’s graduation rate.

The change would require those ninth-graders who don’t pass the four content areas not to be considered a sophomore until the classes are passed.

In 2009, Bibb had a 62.8 percent graduation rate, lower than the state’s 78.9 percent graduation rate.

When students get this level of concentration in their core classes, she said, it should help improve other standardized testing areas, and students should be more successful in school overall.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.