Thursday, October 16, 2008

Graduation Exams Back in the Spotlight

Pennsylvania's Department of Education continues to pursue the development of graduation exams, over the objections of some state lawmakers. State Senator Jane Orie of McCandless says legislation passed over the summer put a one-year moratorium on the department's efforts to make the exams a requirement for high school seniors. She also says at a time the state is at risk of a $3 billion deficit this fiscal year, the department should be looking at areas to cut rather than pursuing new initiatives. Orie says she's heard that the model exams the department wants to develop would cost at minimum $9 million.

Michael Race with the Department of Education says the one-year moratorium applies only to the regulatory process. The department is still developing cirriculum and assessment models that school districts could use voluntarily. Today was the deadline for companies to bid to help with that project. In response to Orie's fiscal concerns, Race says Governor Ed Rendell has already ordered departments to freeze their budgets and look for potential cuts. It's unclear whether the graduation exam project will be part of those cuts. He also says the state needs to weigh the potential fiscal impact of graduating students who are unprepared to join the workforce.

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