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      Proposed bill would remove exit exam score requirement for high school graduation

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- For three decades in South Carolina a single test has determined whether a student will walk away from high school with a diploma. A new bill in legislature would change that.

      A hearing on the bill is scheduled with house representatives Tuesday.

      "We're keeping some students from receiving a high school diploma who actually had successfully completed high school except for just that one test, and that just seems almost unfair or impractical that one test would prevent a student from having a high school diploma," said Roger Smith, executive director of the South Carolina Education Association.

      As the law stands now a student is allowed three attempts at the exit exam. If they fail each time, then instead of getting a high school diploma, they get a certificate of attendance.

      Under the new bill, students would still be required to take the test, but graduation would not depend on passing the exam. The minimum grade required would be removed, leaving some to wonder what the purpose of keeping the exit exam would be.

      "[We] probably don't need that exit exam if we're not going to use the score, and I don't know if Representative Owens and others wanted to take a look at that," said Smith.

      Exit exams have been used as a uniform way of judging a student's graduation readiness regardless of the grading system the student learned under.

      "Teachers grade differently across the state," said Jay Ragley with the SC Dept. of Education. "There's no uniform way to grade a student's work, and so because of that variation, you have to have some type of assessment that is standardized in its approach."

      The state superintendent of education is backing the bill, according to Ragley. He is also advocating for the elimination of two other high school exams called "end of course" tests in Algebra 1 and English 1 in exchange for offering students free college prep tests.

      The bill would have to pass in the House and make its way through Senate before it becomes law.