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A top official of the Mississippi naacp said last week that his group would ask a federal court to halt the state's exit examination for high-school students on the grounds that it discriminates against blacks.

Morris Kinsey, education chairman of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the test was "totally unconstitutional and totally unfair" to black students.

The examination, mandated by Mississippi's 1982 reform law, is taken by high-school juniors every spring. Beginning this year, students cannot receive diplomas until they pass it.

The naacp has cited statistics showing that since the test was first administered in 1985, the failure rate for black students has been more than three times higher than that of white students.

Mr. Kinsey said the group will argue in court that the racial discrepancy is the direct result of the inferior educational opportunities available to blacks in the state.

"Black students are still not receiving a comparable education," he said. "Now they are asking them to compete at a level at which they have not been taught."

The naacp also points to the disproportionate number of black students enrolled in remedial and vocational classes, which Mr. Kinsey claims do not adequately prepare students for the exit test.

A spokesman for the state education department, however, denied that the test was racially biased. Every question on the examination, he said, has been tested to eliminate cultural bias.

"Our position is that the discrepancy between the black and white failure rates is a poverty indicator," the spokesman said.

South Carolina students who complete high-school course requirements but do not pass the state's exit examination will be awarded a certificate in lieu of a diploma, under a plan adopted by the state board of education this month.

The board approved a regulation that would allow students who complete 20 hours of coursework to be awarded a State High School Certificate. Rob Harper, a board spokesman, said the certificate would not carry the weight of a diploma, but would give students "something to show for four years of work."

Beginning in the 1989-90 school year, all high-school students will be required to complete 20 hours of coursework and to pass an exit exam before receiving a diploma.

The exam, which tests reading, mathematics, and written-composition skills, will be given in the 10th grade. Students must pass all three sections, but they will be given three chances to do so.

Mr. Harper said students who receive the certificate may remain in school until they are 21 years old. After that, they may enroll in an adult-education program and may take the exit exam as many times as necessary to pass.

State officials say they hope the certificate will give students who are considering dropping out another goal to try for before quitting.

The certificate regulation will be on the state legislature's agenda for 90 days. If the assembly takes no action, it will pass automatically. Mr. Harper said the board did not anticipate problems with the regulation's passage.

Standardized-test scores of students entering public colleges in Arkansas will soon be used to determine their placement level for college coursework.

The Arkansas Board of Higher Education this month adopted a plan, to take effect next fall, requiring that all degree-seeking students take either the American College Testing Program, the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or the Assessment of Skills for Entry and Transfer examination.

Cynthia Moten, a spokesman for the board, said all college-bound students will have taken one of the tests for admission. Under the new plan, those test scores will also be used to determine the students' placement levels in three areas: mathematics, English composition, and reading.

Students who fail to score above a specified level in each area will be placed in a noncredit developmental program, which will vary depending on the college. After successfully completing the program, the student may enroll in for-credit courses without retaking the exam. The plan is intended to boost achievement levels overall.

Illinois employers have little confidence in the skill levels of high-school graduates who apply to them for jobs, a new study suggests.

In its survey of 360 employers, the Illinois Manufacturers Assocation found that 45 percent characterized their job applicants as "poorly educated." Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said the applicants generally had "average skills."

"The education community has been allowed to float along," said William Dart, vice president of the 5,000-member trade group, "but the fact that the product coming out is not sufficient is disturbing."

Vol. 07, Issue 22

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