Students who were unable to earn an Alabama high school diploma because they either didn’t earn enough credits and/or couldn’t pass one or more portions of the old Alabama High School Graduation Exam (AHSGE) could be given a second chance to do so.
During the board’s May work session, interim state superintendent Dr. Philip Cleveland and Alabama Community College System Adult Education State Director Dr. David Walters presented two pathways for students to earn credits and prove they have the knowledge to earn a regular diploma.
Cleveland assured board members that these proposed pathways to earn a regular diploma aren’t easy. “You’ll see a huge amount of rigor in this. This isn’t about giving anybody anything,” he said.
Walters said over 600,000 adults in Alabama do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent, the General Education Diploma (GED). Walters said providing these pathways gives adults the opportunity to earn a diploma even if they have been out of school for some time.
Calculations from the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) show that for each year of 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, between 4,600 and 5,600 students didn’t pass portions of the exit exam in each of those years and therefore didn’t receive their diploma. Students who didn’t pass the exit exam were given a certificate of completion in lieu of a diploma.
The AHSGE was first instituted in the 1980s as a way to ensure those earning a diploma had a minimum level of content knowledge but was removed as a requirement for all students entering high school in 2010 or later in November 2013. Former state superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice often criticized the exit exam, saying it was a low bar for students.
Cleveland and Walters shared their excitement for this new pathway, with Walters saying it was a “game-changer” for adults.
Walters said he and Cleveland had consulted with members of the Alabama Workforce Council and had worked in a number of elements specifically designed for business and industry needs.
State board of education member Mary Scott Hunter (R-District 8) said she wants to ensure an Alabama high school diploma retains significance, saying, “There probably needs to be a little more debate. We know there is a need [to find pathways for people to earn diplomas]. At the same time, we need to make sure that any move around increasing the graduation rate comports with our need to have good quality in Alabama public education.”
The information below reflects what was presented at the May work session. It is unclear if anything has changed as a request to the ALSDE asking whether the documents had changed was not returned.
When contacted on Friday, State board of education member Stephanie Bell (R-District 3), who had requested a time to review the untraditional diploma requirements to have her questions answered, said she had received no further information about it.
So here’s what we know about the proposal as of the publication of this article on Monday afternoon.
How Students Can Earn the “Untraditional” Diploma
There are two pathways to earn a diploma, depending upon whether a student needs additional credits and/or hasn’t passed portions of the exit exam.
If these requirements are met, the local school district will award the student a diploma.
The eligibility requirements are the same: a student must have at least 10 of the 24 required credits already completed, must be 17 years old or older, and must complete the Test for Adult Basic Education (TABE) and score at the 6th grade level or higher.
Student Lacking Credits
If a student lacks the credits to graduate, here are the ways to earn those credits. A student can use all of these methods to earn required credits.
- Earn a benchmark score on portions of the GED. A score of 145 to 164 earns one credit, 165 to 174 earns two credits, and 175 or higher earns three credits. A student can earn up to 10 credits through this method.
- Enroll and complete the structured Ready to Work program for three credits.
- Complete the ACT WorkKeys assessment. A level 4 equals a half-credit, level 5 equals one credit, and level 6 equals two credits. Reading for Information, Locating Information and Applied Mathematics are the three assessments being used.
- Complete a technical career pathway class at the college level and earn a one for one credit. This is akin to dual enrollment courses available at the high school level.
- Complete courses in the Southern Regional Education Board’s Reading Language Arts and Mathematics curriculum to build credits.
- Earn credits via Prior Learning Experience competencies demonstrated through the Prior Learning Assessment procedure used by the Alabama Community College System.
Student Couldn’t Pass the Exit Exam
If a student was unable to pass portions of the AHSGE, they must first have all 24 credits or the number of credits established by the local school district.
One of the following methods can be used to earn a regular diploma:
- The Community College system’s Adult Education program will provide instructional assistance for whatever areas the student did not pass on the exit exam. The student must be able to attain a ninth-grade equivalency or higher as measured by the TABE assessment.
- The student could enroll and complete the Ready to Work program.
- The student could earn a score of four or higher on the ACT WorkKeys assessment in each of the three areas (Locating Information, Applied Mathematics, and Reading for Information).
- Prior Learning Experience can be reviewed
The board is expected to vote on the proposal at Tuesday’s regular board meeting. The meeting starts at 10:00 a.m. and will be live-streamed at this link.
[UPDATE: This article was updated at 1:00 p.m. on July 11 with comments from state board member Mary Scott Hunter.]