Former BHS students can now receive diploma via new law

Published 6:48 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bainbridge High School is working through an influx of graduation applications after a new law removed passing the Georgia High School Graduation Test from diploma requirements for former students.

March 30, while Decatur County schools were on spring break, Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 91 into law, creating code section O.C.G.A. § 20-2-281.1, which went into effect immediately.

According to the Georgia Department of Education, the law covers all graduation tests beginning with the Basic Skills Test, which was administered to students who were enrolled in grade nine after July 1, 1981. The law also applies to students who earned a GED and did not receive a diploma solely for not passing the graduation tests.

Email newsletter signup

At a called work session last Thursday, Decatur County School System Superintendent Dr. Fred Rayfield said that BHS administrators estimate 25-to-30 students per year that were potentially impacted by the test requirement.

“We’ve got one 40-year-old student who took the BST, which is the Basic Skills Test that was in place before the Georgia High School Graduation Test, and he took it and missed it by one point,” said Dr. April Aldridge, assistant superintendent.

The Petition for Awarding of High School Diploma can be found on BHS’s website, at the BHS main office or at the district’s downtown office.

Rayfield said that one challenge will be determining if each individual met all of the other applicable graduation requirements, depending on when he or she was in school and that the BHS guidance office will do an in-depth study on each applicant.

“This is not a process whereby you hand me an application and I hand you a diploma at the same minute. It can’t work that way because there’s so much checking that has to be done,” Rayfield said. “Starting out we are not making any promises, but we estimate it will take 30 days to process. I think it will become quicker than that once we know how to analyze those transcripts, get the sign offs and print the diplomas.”

Rayfield said that the system will give the state an annual count of how many diplomas it awards through the process.

“We have a mechanism in place to get them a diploma, which will have the date on it when their application is approved,” Rayfield said. “It will be a Bainbridge High School diploma.”

“While in 2011 the State Board of Education eliminated the test as a requirement for graduation, it did not extend to students who were unsuccessful on the test prior to that time,” said Georgia State Superintendent Richard Woods in a statement. “House Bill 91 makes it possible for those students to finally obtain their high school diploma so they can move on to a brighter future. Those who completed all of the requirements for graduation except for passing one test on one given day now have the opportunity to go on to some form of postsecondary education, where they can obtain skills needed to have a great quality of life and be contributors to our society.”