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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Hillsborough panel: add an exam exemption, ease weights



TAMPA -- A Hillsborough County School Board subcommittee is recommending a way for seniors to earn one exam exemption this fall.

But semester exams will still happen during the week of January 12, rather than before the holidays, and good attendance won't get you out of them. The proposal is up for discussion and a possible vote at this Tuesday's board meeting.

Under the plan, the district would reinstate an exemption that allows seniors to skip one exam in any class from the first semester if they earn at least a 3 on the science portion of last year's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. To qualify, they must maintain at least a C average in the class for both of the nine-week grading periods, with no final period grade below a C; receive approval from the district's student affairs office; have no debts to their school; and meet the 10th grade FCAT graduation requirement.

Students and families have complained about both the post-holiday exam schedule -- which was forced by a state law barring districts from starting school more than two weeks before Labor Day -- and the suspension of attendance-based exam exemptions due to the swine flu outbreak.

Superintendent MaryEllen Elia has said neither decision can be altered this year. But reinstating an exemption this fall for seniors was considered as a response to such complaints.

"What the kids were saying was, come up with another way to give us exemptions," said spokeswoman Linda Cobbe.

The committee is also recommending that the district ease the current exam weight formula from 33 to 25 percent of the semester grade, putting more emphasis on daily work, classroom grades and other activities. A survey of 27 districts found that most assign a weight of 20 or 25 percent.

According to the committee's "strategic objectives" in a summary document, such changes are intended to increase promotion and graduation rates.

-- Tom Marshall, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:37am]


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