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Georgia graduation test dates set
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The Georgia High School Graduation Test is taking place next week for high school juniors, and Newton school officials are informing parents about the test, which will affect eligibility for graduation.

The Newton County School System is sending out a pre-recorded telephone message starting today to remind parents about the test, which will be administered the week of March 18 - 22 to all juniors and certain other students as outlined by the state of Georgia graduation requirements, according to Sherri Davis-Viniard, director of public relations for Newton County Schools.

The schedule for testing is as follows:
• Monday, March 18: social studies
• Tuesday, March 19: English language arts
• Wednesday, March 20: math
• Thursday, March 21: science

Students must meet all associated graduation test requirements in order to receive a high school diploma.

According to information from the Georgia Department of Education, the GHSGT provides valuable information for students, educators and parents about a student’s strengths and areas for improvement. The tests identify students who may need additional instruction in the concepts and skills required for a diploma.

Students who entered high school before July 2011, must pass the Georgia High School Graduation Tests in the four content areas — social studies, language arts, math and science — as well as the Georgia High School Writing Test if they are looking to receive a high school diploma.

As a result of amendments to the State Board of Education rule in April 2011, which would eventually phase out the GHSGT, students who enrolled in high school from fall 2008 through June 2011 must demonstrate their proficiency in the four GHSGT content areas by either passing each of the GHSGTs or by passing one of the two equivalent End of Course Tests in each corresponding content area. These students are also required to take and pass the Georgia High School Writing Test to be eligible for a diploma.

Students who entered ninth grade during the 2011-12 school year and beyond will not have to take the test, and are not required to pass the GHSGT. However, they are required to take and pass the Georgia High School Writing Test and to pass all required courses and end-of-course tests, which count for 20 percent of the student's grades.

When the Georgia Department of Education announced its plan to phase out the GHSGT in 2011, Georgia School Superintendent John Barge said he didn’t believe the GHSGT was nearly as good an indicator of how much a student had learned as state End-of-Course Tests.

Barge and the State Board of Education determined the EOCTs were much more rigorous, and tested a student immediately following a course, rather than waiting until a student's junior year to determine whether or not he or she has mastered the content of state curriculum.

According to the Georgia DOE, students take the graduation tests for the first time in 11th grade. The Writing Assessment takes place in the fall, and the GHSGT in English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies occur in the spring of 11th grade.

Students who do not pass on the first attempt of the tests have multiple opportunities to receive additional instruction, retest and qualify for graduation before the spring of the 12th grade.

For those who do not pass all the required tests, but have met all other graduation requirements they may be eligible for a Certificate of Performance or a Special Education Diploma.

Students who have left school with a Certificate of Performance or a Special Education Certificate may return to attempt the graduation tests again, as often as necessary to qualify for a high school diploma.

Also, students with disabilities and English Language Learners may receive appropriate standard accommodations based on their needs. Students with disabilities unable to participate in the state testing program, even with accommodations, are assessed with the Georgia Alternate Assessment.

All students must be given up to three hours to complete the tests if needed.

Davis-Viniard said parents of students taking the test this spring can make sure their child does his or her best during the testing period by making sure they get plenty of rest each night of testing, receive nutritious meals daily, are encouraged to listen carefully and follow instructions. Parents can also help by making sure their child gets to school on time each morning of testing.

Davis-Viniard said the Georgia Department of Testing prohibits students from bringing any electronic communication devices such as cell phones and PDA’s into the testing environment, which could allow students access to information. Students are encouraged to bring calculators. However, graphing calculators are not permitted.

If anyone has questions concerning testing, they can contact their child’s high school for more details.

According to the DOE, results from the GHSGT will be available to school systems May 6-10.