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State changes graduation requirements

WINTON – The rules have changed.

Former graduates of Hertford County High School who received only a graduation certificate due to not completing the Computer Skills and/or Reading and Math Competency testing requirements may now petition the school for a full-fledged diploma.

That decision was reached Monday night by the Hertford County Board of Education after they learned the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) no longer requires testing in those two areas, thusly eliminating them from the list of graduation requirements.

“The Computer Skills and Reading and Math Competency testing requirements for graduation are no longer in effect from this point forward,” said Hertford County Board of Education Chairman Ron Baker.

However, instead of merely stopping at that point, Baker said the board wanted to take the issue to another level.

“We’ve had some students over the past few years that did not complete these requirements and thusly received a certificate of attendance rather than a regular graduation diploma,” Baker explained. “The board wanted to be proactive in regards to this issue and instructed staff to identify and notify those students who may petition the high school principal in regards to replacing their graduation certificate with a regular graduation diploma.”

Baker reminded those students wishing to file a petition that the high school principal makes the final judgment on the matter. He added that the petition can only apply to the Computer Skills and/or Reading and Math Competency requirements.

“If there’s an issue of a student failing to complete any other required course, then there is no need to file a petition,” Baker noted. “This only applies to the Computer Skills and/or the Reading and Math Competency requirements.”

Baker said the board felt the petition process was the only fair way to deal with this issue.

“We want to make sure that all our students have an opportunity to receive a diploma based upon their work over the course of their high school careers,” Baker concluded. “Having a regular diploma rather than a graduation certificate makes a big difference, both in applying for college enrollment and in today’s competitive job market.”

According to Ron Lane, Director of Testing and Accountability for Hertford County Public Schools, Senate Bill 202 eliminated funding for administering tests that are not currently required by federal law or as a condition of a federal grant. The elimination of those funds affected Computer Skills, Reading and Math Competency testing and end of course testing for Chemistry and Physics.

“These courses are still being offered at Hertford County High School, but now they do not require end of grade testing, meaning that exit standards no longer exist,” Lane said. “There is no state required testing. The teachers will devise their own standards of testing.”

Lane added there is a five-year window for former students to petition the high school principal in regards to changing the status of their diploma. Like Baker, Lane stressed that the petition process only applies to those who previously failed to meet the Computer Skills and/or Reading and Math Competency requirements.

“Upon review of a student’s transcript, the principal has the authority to uphold the petition and grant the student a regular diploma,” Lane explained.

DPI will send letters to all public school superintendents, charter school directors, the North Carolina Community College System and the state’s Employment Security Commission to inform them of the elimination of these proficiency standards.

“This will afford students that petition and receive a regular high school diploma the opportunity to enroll in a community college if they so choose,” Lane stressed. “This will open up a lot of doors of opportunity for these students.”

In another key issue addressed by the board on Monday, they voted in favor of closing a school if 25 percent or more of the school’s faculty is absent due to sickness.

Baker said this decision was reached after the board discussed the H1N1 (Swine Flu) and seasonal flu issues. Local health officials have warned that either of those viruses could run at all-time highs during the fall/winter and spring months, possibly leading to high rates of absenteeism in the workplace.