Next fall's high school freshmen will be the first class since 1995 that won't have to take the state's comprehensive test to graduate.
The State Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to eliminate the requirement for the State High School Graduation Test. Instead, the end-of-course exams will count more toward students' grades in the eight courses required for graduation.
The end-of-course tests will then count for 20 percent of a student's grade in each of those classes, up from 15 percent now.
Their scores will also be recorded in their transcripts sent to colleges when they apply for admission.
The graduation test replaced the "basic skills test" after employers and college administrators complained to lawmakers that graduates weren't prepared. It was designed as a way to ensure graduates had the knowledge specified in the state board's curriculum and minimum standards.
"I think everybody agrees the end-of-course test is a better way of doing that," said Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the board. "The end-of-course test is more rigorous but it comes right after the student was exposed to the material."
Educators and politicians have talked for years about doing away with the graduation test as a way to reduce the number of exams students must take. Some students in advanced placement classes wind up taking the end-of-course tests for their classes, an advanced-placement quiz for college credit and their teachers' final exam for each of their courses.
Superintendent John Barge is happy to see the graduation test go.
"Georgia has been trying to eliminate the Georgia High School Graduation Test for over a decade," he said. "I appreciate the state board's vote that finally allows us to move away from it."
Doing away with the graduation test earlier proved too expensive because the state previously allowed so many types of courses to count for graduation credit that each would have had a unique test created for it. Developing standardized tests typically takes months and thousands of dollars each to minimize errors and confusion.
Students will still have to take the state's writing-proficiency test to graduate because there is no single, required class in writing that an end-of-course test would apply to.
The graduation tests are taken initially during the junior year to give students who flunk the chance to take it again and still graduate on time.
This year's current juniors, sophomores and freshmen have the option to pass an end-of-course test or the graduation test.