High Schoolers Must Now Pass Test to Graduate

High Schoolers Must Now Pass Test to Graduate

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Shelley Osterloh ReportingThere are big changes this year for high school students. Requirements to earn a high school diploma have changed. Utah's class of 2006 is the first group of students who must pass the Utah Basic Skills Competency Test to graduate. Some students are worried.

Teacher: "You have taken the test and failed the writing portion so they put you in here so I can help you get your writing skills better."

It’s the first day of classes at Creekside High, Murray District's alternative high school. This class is designed to help students pass the Utah Basic Skills Competency Test or UBSCT, U-biscuit as it’s called.

Melissa Spencer, Math teacher: "I would say the majority of students are not going to have a struggle with it, they are going to pass it."

But some will fail -- those most at risk, students in special ed or those who speak English as a second language.

Hispanic Teen: "I don't know English very well, so I don't understand the questions that they ask me."

Students have mixed reaction. Some teens don't test well. Others worry the test carries too much weight.

Teen Boy: "You don't graduate, that’s messing with somebody's life. I means that's their life, how could you do that, just take it away from them."

Teen Girl: "I think it’s good partly because it raises the bar for people because you get better jobs if they see you've got a high school diploma. It means you've passed the test and you know all the skills."

To get a high school diploma, students have to pass all three parts of the competency test: reading writing and arithmetic. They have five chances to do it, once as a sophomore, twice as a junior and twice as a senior.

Those who pass the test and complete class requirements earn a "basic" diploma. Those who fail any part of the test but meet the class requirements may get an "alternative diploma,” new for Utah schools. Those who do neither, but attend all 12 years, may get a certificate of completion.

The Utah Legislature mandated the UBSCT tests but twice rejected requests for funding to pay for tutoring and summer school classes for those who need them. That worries Creekside Principal Jennifer Kranz.

Jennifer Kranz, Principal, Creekside High School: "I just think we need to support these students a little better than we have."

Still, she says, schools are gearing up to help students pass the tests and earn that basic diploma. Students can take the tests in the Fall and Spring.

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