- Associated Press - Saturday, March 22, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - For the second year in a row, Mississippi high school seniors will get a last chance to pass state graduation exams.

The state Board of Education approved a contract Friday worth up to $96,000 with Mississippi State University’s Research and Curriculum to offer the exams beginning the week of April 28 in Starkville and Hattiesburg.

“What we wanted to do was put in place that opportunity again,” said State Student Assessment Director James Mason.

In addition to course and other requirements, high school students can’t graduate before passing four tests in algebra I, biology I, U.S. history and English II.

Seniors typically have had at least six chances to pass the subject-area tests. Students usually first take the U.S. history exam as a junior, and first take the others as freshmen or sophomores.

Last year, 959 students took 1,209 last-chance tests, passing 27 percent of them. The tests were only offered in Starkville then. State Student Assessment Director James Mason said two sites will cut the travel burden on students.

Of roughly 28,000 seniors in 2013, 1,321 did not pass all four tests or did not graduate. State officials said some of them may not have graduated for other reasons, such as failing to complete all required courses.

The tests are given four times a year, in September, December, March and May.

Students will get results from the most recent administration of the subject-area tests by April 18, Mason told the board. Retests are being offered online at schools this year, instead of using paper and pencil. Mason said it would have cost three times as much to pay Mississippi’s testing contractor, Pearson PLC, to offer another round of online retests at high schools.

“This was the most economical way we could do it,” he said.

Even if students again fail a subject-area test, they might still be able to graduate. In January, the state Board of Education created other options for students who fail the exams at least twice.

For example, a student who fails U.S. history twice could still graduate if she has scored 17 or higher on the reading section of the ACT college test, earned a “C” or higher in a college-credit history course, earned a 36 on the Armed Forces Qualification Test along with meeting certain career-education requirements or has earned a silver level on the ACT Work Keys along with meeting certain career-education requirements.

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Online: Alternate graduation requirements: https://bit.ly/NE1QE8

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Follow Jeff Amy at: https://twitter.com/jeffamy


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