Former students petition Horry County Schools for diplomas under new law

Horry County Schools has received about 50 requests from former students who want to receive their S.C. high school diploma now that the exit exam requirement has been dropped.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed a new law in April that deletes the 30-year-old requirement that students pass an exit exam (High School Assessment Program or Basic Skills Assessment Program) for a diploma, even if they earned the required number of high school credits to graduate. The law takes effect with the class of 2015 and is retroactive to 1990.

The district received about half of its requests in two days after the diploma review information was made available July 1, said Heather Sheehan, HCS director of assessments. Review forms can be downloaded from the district website or picked up at local high schools through Dec. 31, 2015.

“It’s been touted pretty heavily, so we knew we’d get more at the front end,” Sheehan said. “I don’t know how many of those are going to be valid. The phone calls I’ve gotten have been mixed.”

The S.C. Department of Education estimates about 1,000 certificates of completion were earned each of the last 30 years, which means there could be 30,000 or more people who are now eligible to receive a diploma, said Anna Burns, program coordinator with the education department.

The district estimates about 20 to 30 people each year did not pass the exit exam in Horry County, Sheehan said.

The exit exam is being replaced by two tests, which will be taken by 11th-graders beginning in the upcoming school year. One is WorkKeys, a job skills assessment, which already is used in the district. The other test has not been determined yet.

A district committee will meet at the end of July to compare each request for a diploma with the state’s requirements, Sheehan said. Those that comply must be approved by the Horry County school board and sent to the state education department for printing, which may take up to eight weeks for the first round because of summer schedules, she said.