Guest Blogger: Rebecca Kaye, APS Policy & Governance Advisor
I am very rarely brought to tears of joy by actions of the Georgia General Assembly and our Governor. However, this week, Governor Deal signed House Bill 91 (HB 91) which retroactively eliminates previously required state graduation tests which were in place for Georgia graduating classes beginning with the APS class of 1985. This bill will provide an estimated 9,000 Georgians with a diploma who have been making their way in the world without one.
Here in our office when co-workers do really great things to improve the lives of children, we celebrate them by telling the world about their actions and giving them “shine.” I want to give some shine to our many dedicated employees who are proactively working to communicate the news about the new law and put together a list of impacted former APS students so we can get them their diplomas. The law requires only that we allow petitions, so it is inspiring to work with individuals who care so much that they want to go above and beyond to help our former students recover their diplomas.
As of this morning, we’ve already received a dozen applications on our website – www.atlantapublicschools.us/diplomarecovery
Our data aren’t always perfect… and the classes of students whose records only exist on paper and microfiche will present challenges, but we already have a list of 814 students who exited an APS high school with a “Certificate of Performance” in the recent past. That means those students completed all of their course requirements, but failed one or more portions of the state graduation test. Our goal is to find those students and let them know, that as of this week, they are now high school graduates!
This announcement has allowed me to reflect quite a bit this week. In my very first policy job over a decade ago at the Southern Regional Education Board, I worked on high school issues, wrote papers urging Southern states to transition to end-of-course assessments rather than comprehensive exit exams, and I worked with southern policy makers to transition to these standardized state final exams as a better policy choice—instead of forcing students to prepare for low-level tests on content they may not have studied in years, EOCTs help measure how well students grasped the material in the course. That information provides us with a wealth of information not just about student performance… it also helps us, as policy makers understand which teachers are exceptional instructors so we can identify and disseminate promising practices throughout the district.
I urge you to continue to visit www.atlantapublicschools.us/diplomarecovery. Our APS team is considering ideas for a celebration for these newly minted graduates that includes a college and career fair to provide information about HOPE grants, our local open-enrollment colleges, military service, workforce development and career options. Their thinking was not just about getting diplomas to these former students, but also about what comes next to help them and their families. We look forward to sharing future developments with you on our website.
To paraphrase Theodore Parker and, in turn, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Congratulations to our newest APS graduates!