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It’s official: Mississippi high school seniors no longer must pass all four subject-area tests to graduate.

Next year’s seniors will be able to graduate if they achieve a combined minimum score from all four tests. Or they can apply for graduation by demonstrating mastery.

Starting in the 2016-2017 school year, however, subject-areas test scores will account for 25 percent of a student’s final grade in the related course. There are four courses, each with its own subject-area test: Algebra I, English II, Biology and U.S. History.

Students take the tests upon completion of the courses, which are offered in grades 8-12. Those who are concerned about graduating should meet with their counselors to discuss these new options, the agency said.

Of this year’s seniors, 3,856 – about 13 percent – have failed at least one subject-area test at some point since the eighth grade, according to the Mississippi Department of Education. If they still cannot graduate despite the new policy, the students will have an opportunity to retake the tests this summer and again in fall.

Mississippi’s overall graduation rate is 75.5 percent.

“This option gives students another way to demonstrate that they have mastered their coursework without making the requirements for graduation contingent upon the outcome of any one particular test,” said John R. Kelly, Board chairman, in a press release. “This policy also preserves the ability of districts and schools to continue using SATP end-of-course test results to measure how well students are learning.”

Test results will continue to be included in the state accountability model, which assigns A-F ratings to schools and school districts based on student performance and other benchmarks.

State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright had first announced her intentions to end the graduation requirement during a legislative meeting earlier this month. It came just as the Senate Education Committee was prepared to pass a bill essentially doing the same thing.

Introduced by state Rep. Deborah Dixon, D-Raymond, House Bill 665 had the support of the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents.

“I authored this bill to give young kids an opportunity to be successful,” Dixon had said in February. “Some students just do not test well. They have success on every front, except standardized test taking. They should not be penalized.”

Contact Emily Le Coz at (601) 961-7249 or elecoz@jackson.gannett.com. Follow @emily_lecoz on Twitter.

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