The Alabama State Board of Education (BOE) has proposed additional high school diploma requirements for high school graduates across the state.
The proposal will have 45 days for the public to introduce comments and concerns before the Board issues a final vote on the issue.
The new rule would require all public high school graduates to receive post-secondary education and workforce readiness, called College and Career Readiness (CCR), to prepare them for what lies after high school.
Some board members voiced concern with the proposed requirements.
District 7 board member Belinda McRae was concerned that the requirements would not be fair to those learning English and those who struggle with learning throughout their schooling.
Alabama State Superintendent of Education Eric Mackey said having special pathways for "cognitively disabled" students and non-native English speakers is barred by federal law. He also said that many special education students in the state receive their CCR before graduation.
"Under federal law, we cannot have a dual pathway for students who are not native English speakers," Mackey said.
"[T]hey would have the same high expectations to meet," he added. "It is obviously difficult if they come in, in high school, not speaking English. And I would submit that it's not just the CCR, but just earning their diploma is a challenge."
The state proposed additional credential requirements after noticing many low test scores among Alabama students.
"Board members want to make sure they're doing what's right for high school students," Mackey said. "Everybody on the board wants to raise expectations for all of our students but also wants to make sure that we're doing it in a fair and appropriate way, making the right steps."
The BOE voted 6 to 3 to move the issue forward. If the Board passes the rule, the requirements would begin with the graduating class of 2028.
Governor Kay Ivey, who presided over the meeting, supported the measure.
"It's important that we take action to close the gap between graduation rate and the [CCR] rate," Ivey said. "The rule will take effect in 2028, which gives us plenty of time to work through a whole lot of this, and we can have a whole lot more meetings if y'all want to. But I sure hope y'all will join me in moving to close the gap."
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