Students to take graduation tests

COVINGTON - During next week's Georgia High School Graduation Tests, high school juniors will make decisions that could affect their graduations next year.

All 11th-grade students in Newton County will take the tests for the first time starting Monday.

To receive a high school diploma, students must pass these tests - social studies, science, English/language arts and math - as well as the Georgia High School Writing Assessment that was given in the fall.

On Monday, students will take the social studies portion of the test. Science is given on Tuesday, English/Language Arts on Wednesday and Math on Thursday.

Sheila Thomas, director of testing for the Newton County School System, said most schools will start first thing in the morning after the school day begins, so students should not be late for school.

On Friday, students who miss any portion of the test can take a makeup test.

"Generally, if students miss any of the tests, they only miss one," she said about participation in the past. "The state only gives us a five-day window to give the test, so they have to take it that week."

Students who have previously taken any of the four tests and didn't pass one or more of them also will have the opportunity to take retests during the week.

Thomas said students have up to three hours each day to complete the section, which consist of multiple choice questions.

Currently, the pass rate is 500, but the score range will change after new standards are set by the Georgia Department of Education in 2008, according to the Georgia Department of Education Web site.

Thomas said this year's English/language arts and science assessments are now fully aligned with the Georgia Performance Standards, which is now being implemented in Georgia public schools.

"(The other sections) are in transition; math is still (Quality Core Curriculum) and social studies is blended with QCC and GPS," she said.

Thomas said teachers have been practicing with students so they can do well on the tests.

"Each school has a highly individualized plan to teach the students, such as practice sessions or activities before or after school," Thomas said.

She said students can get more help before the test by visiting the Georgia Department of Education Web site, located at www.gadoe.org, for information about the test and practice tests, as well as other practice sites like www.usatestprep.com.

"I know all of our students and teachers in our school system have been practicing very hard for this," Thomas said. "I wish them the best of luck."

Last school year, the Newton County School System had a 99 percent pass rate in English/language arts, a 96 percent rate in math, 89 percent in social studies and 74 percent in science.

Thomas said the school system hopes to increase those numbers this school year.

She said students should receive their individual test results by the beginning of May. Anyone who fails any section of the test will have multiple opportunities take a retest before graduation.

The next retest dates are July 14 and 15 at a location to be announced.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@ newtoncitizen.com.