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Nearly 1,500 of Louisiana's roughly 32,000 public high school seniors have failed the state graduation examination--a test that some parents, and lately some lawmakers, have sharply criticized.

As in years past, a disproportionate number of students who failed the test were black, a fact that angers some black lawmakers. Two bills that would have ended a requirement that public school students pass the test to graduate died this month in the legislature.

The high failure rates for black students have fueled attempts by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other groups to have the courts scrap the test. Those efforts were recently stymied when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case brought by parents of minority students who had failed.

Students who failed the test cannot graduate in the spring but may take it again.

Math Gap in Minnesota: Disappointing results from a preliminary mathematics test designed to show how close Minnesota children are to mastering the state's new graduation standards has left educators wondering how to close the huge gap.

The first trial showed that only 62 percent of the nearly 10,000 8th graders who took the math test scored better than 70 percent. Only 52 percent scored better than 75 percent.

Beginning in the spring of 2000, the state will require students to show competency in math and six other subjects to receive a diploma.

"To be successful in life and in their careers, students must be competent in at least these areas," Linda Powell, the state commissioner of education, said in commenting on the importance of the state standards.

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