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November 28, 2014

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State Board of Education lays out new rules for graduation requirements

Classes of 2017 and 2018 won’t have to pass prescribed tests

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Steve Marcus

Graduates turn and thank family members during the Clark County School District’s second annual summer high school graduation ceremony for summer school graduates and at-risk students at the Las Vegas Academy in downtown Las Vegas Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013.

Current eighth- and ninth-graders won't have to pass new exams in math, reading and writing to graduate from high school, Nevada’s K-12 education leaders decided today.

Earlier this year, the Nevada State Board of Education began phasing out the current High School Proficiency Exam in favor of new assessments aligned with more rigorous academic standards, called the Common Core State Standards.

State lawmakers have mandated that starting with the current crop of freshmen (class of 2017), students must take four end-of-course exams in algebra I, geometry, reading and writing to graduate.

However, the Nevada Education Department wants to “field-test” these new end-of-course exams -- essentially test the new tests before fully adopting them. The field tests would help ensure the test results are valid.

State school board members unanimously decided today that current eighth-graders (class of 2017) and ninth-graders (class of 2018) would serve as the test group next school year.

The decision means some students will be taking end-of-course exams a year or two after taking the course. To ease the transition and be fair to those students, the state school board also decided on a different graduation requirement for the classes of 2017 and 2018.

Current eighth- and ninth-graders who pass the end-of-course exam can graduate from high school. Those who fail the exam can also graduate if they pass the requisite course.

That means a student who gets a D- in geometry and doesn't pass the new geometry end-of-course exam can still receive a high school diploma.

Students in the class of 2019 – current seventh-graders – must pass all four end-of-course exams to graduate.

“For these two groups (of students in class of 2017 and 2018), pass will mean take the test and pass the class,” Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga said. “It’s the fair thing to do. It’s the smoothest and easiest transition (to the new exams).”

Some state school board members expressed reservations about the different graduation requirements for current eighth- and ninth-graders.

“I’m not comfortable with a D or D- as proficient,” said Kevin Melcher, Nevada higher education regent and state school board member. “We need to consider the grade.”

However, Erquiaga noted that while state law requires the passage of four end-of-course exams, it’s up to the state Board of Education to define what “passing” means.

Ultimately, the state board decided that for two high school classes, taking the exams means passing the exam.

Here are the new high school graduation requirements by grade level:

    • Current seniors (class of 2014)

      Must pass the High School Proficiency Exam and earn 22.5 credits.

      On the proficiency exam, students must score at least 242 out of a possible 500 points on the math section, 300 on the reading section, 300 on the science section and 7 out of a possible 12 points on the writing section.

    • Current juniors (class of 2015)

      Must pass the High School Proficiency Exam and earn 22.5 credits.

      On the proficiency exam, students must score at least 242 out of a possible 500 points on the math section, 300 on the reading section, 300 on the science section and 7 out of a possible 12 points on the writing section.

    • Current sophomores (class of 2016)

      Must pass the High School Proficiency Exam and earn 22.5 credits.

      On the proficiency exam, students must score at least 242 out of a possible 500 points on the math section, 300 on the reading section, 300 on the science section and 7 out of a possible 12 points on the writing section.

      When they are juniors, the students must take a new college and career-readiness exam, which is yet to be determined (either the ACT or SAT). Students don’t have to pass the college entrance exam to graduate.

    • Current freshmen (class of 2017)

      Must take four new end-of-course exams and earn 22.5 credits.

      Students only need to take the exams in algebra I, geometry, reading and writing. They don’t have to pass the exams to graduate.

      When they are juniors, the students must take a new college and career-readiness exam, which is yet to be determined (either the ACT or SAT). Students don’t have to pass the college entrance exam to graduate.

    • Current eighth-graders (class of 2018)

      Must take four new end-of-course exams and earn 22.5 credits.

      Students only need to take the exams in algebra I, geometry, reading and writing. They don’t have to pass the exams to graduate.

      When they are juniors, the students must take a new college and career-readiness exam, which is yet to be determined (either the ACT or SAT). Students don’t have to pass the college entrance exam to graduate.

    • Current seventh-graders (class of 2019)

      Must take and pass four new end-of-course exams and earn 22.5 credits.

      Students must pass exams in algebra I, geometry, English language arts (combined reading and writing) and a new science exam.

      When they are juniors, students must take a new college and career-readiness exam, which is yet to be determined (either the ACT or SAT). Students don’t have to pass the college entrance exam to graduate.

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