5:00 PM: A new bill signed into law two weeks ago by Governor Nathan Deal eliminates the requirement for former high school students to have passed the Georgia High School Graduation Test to receive their diploma. The same bill also allows former students to request from the Board of Education their diploma if they never received one because they did not pass the old test.
Meet Megan Cunningham. She works as a day-care attendant at Apple Tree Prep in Watkinsville. She helps the babies at the day-care facility walk, plays with them and she even helps feed them. But this is not her goal as a career. Cunningham hopes to work as an ultrasound nurse.
Her career and post-secondary education were put on hold because she could not receive her diploma. She had a B average throughout high school career but never received her diploma because she could not pass one section of the graduation test. She says it was a struggle from the time she graduated from Oconee County High School in 2006 until now.
“I couldn’t do anything except work, and that’s it,” Cunningham says. “My life was pretty much on hold. Like, I was stuck where I was at.”
One supporter of former students, such as Cunningham, is Dr. Philip Brown, principal of North Oconee High School. Brown believes it’s a good idea to scrap the old graduation test, and he says North Oconee will do whatever it takes to help out its former students get their diplomas.
“We’re gonna definitely reach out to some kids, and as many as we can if we still know their whereabouts, and phone numbers and those sorts of things,” Brown says. “To help reach out them so that they know that this is an opportunity that’s available to them.”
Through the past nine years, Cunningham says her friends and family kept her believing one day she would receive her diploma and fulfill her dream of becoming an ultrasound nurse.
She says, “They were like, ‘you’ll do it, you’ll be able to do it.’ So I never lost hope the whole time.”
Cunningham hopes to attend Athens Technical College to continue her education that has been nine years in the making.
10:00 AM: High schoolers will now be able to get a diploma without passing the Georgia High School Graduation Test. This is House Bill 91, and it was signed by Governor Nathan Deal two weeks ago. The bill also allows some former students who did not receive a diploma the chance to go back and get one. These past students may go back and get their diploma if they completed all of their coursework requirements but didn’t pass the Graduation Test. Reporter CJ Gaan finds out how this new law affects one local school district, and if it expects former students to request a diploma.
9:20 AM: Reporter CJ visited North Oconee High School to talk with the principal about these changes.
1:15 PM: Megan Cunningham is a 2006 Oconee County High graduate. She says she could not pass the Social Studies portion of the GHSGT. She received a certificate of attendance at her graduation, but two weeks ago, she was able to finally get her diploma.