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[Susan notes: A Virginia mother asks for answers to fairly simple question: Why is the state placing so many obstacles in the road of her son's getting a high school diploma. ]

Submitted to Richmond Times Dispatch but not published

To the editor

Does anyone care?

I want to share my experience with you as having a son in the first graduation class to have to pass 6 SOL's. He will be graduating in 2004,

not sure today if it will be in a public school or private. Sam tested into the LD program for English when he was in 1st grade. I have to

applaud our public school system, Amherst County, b/c they have been very supportive and gone above and beyond the call of duty to help Sam with his

academic progress. Of course, he has strong parental support too.

When Sam tested into the LD program, we also had him tested at UVA to be sure the county schools testing were in line and we found that they were right on target. So we've been very happy, thus far.

Sam just completed his Jr. year at Amherst County High School. He has 22 credits, only needing

English 12 & Gov't for his senior year. He is also in the vocational program at Amherst. Sam has passed 5 of the required SOL tests towards his

standard diploma. He took the writing SOL in the fall of 2002 and made a 392. Wow that's pretty good, only 1 question away from passing.

For the 2nd seamster, b/c we're on the block schedule, the school set up a one on one remediation program for Sam in Writing. I applaud Amherst for this pioneer move. He had 1 1/2 hrs of writing remediation beginning in Jan.

2003. He took the Writing SOL in March and made a 364. Boy that has been disappointing. Now here's our dilemma.

Do we take a chance and leave Sam in the public school knowing that he has to pass this writing test to graduate, or do we put him in a private school for his senior year so he will be guaranteed a standard diploma. Sam is a B,C student and he has never failed a course during his school years at Amherst. Because Sam is

in the L/D program he qualifies for the Modified Standard Diploma, but he has to pass the 8th grade SOL's. We were not aware of this diploma until Sam's 10th grade year in high school. He has taken the 8th grade SOL's 4 times with an average score of 362. The state has recently approved another diploma, called the General Achievement Diploma, but guess what, there is another test tied to this also, which is the GED. This is really not an option for Sam, since we're educating our business leaders that you

only want to employ students out of high school that have a standard diploma.

Sam is not a problem student, he does not have an attendance problem. This is a child that is being "Left Behind" by the state. There

is nothing I can do or the school division can do to help him. I've requested from the DOE to give a variance for these transition years on the

SOL's for English. They did give a variance on Social Studies and Science that if you made a 375-399 the local school division can give you a credit for this. If this is not acceptable I requested that they give the local school division some authority with the SOL's in general. Sam should be able to receive his standard diploma from Amherst County High School b/c he has done the work, but the DOE says No.

This has been such a tough battle

and I don't know where to turn anymore. I've talked to school administrators, legislators, DOE and so far I've been held down by the laws

that are currently in place. Sam is taking the Writing SOL today and just heard back from the DOE that we will not get results back until the last week of August. Our public school starts on Aug. 21st, therefore I can't even get test results back in time to make a decision for Sam. So now it looks like he will start out in the public school and then if he does not pass he will transfer to a private school. Can someone tell me that this is the best thing for Sam? The most interesting of all of these, is what

is happening to other kids that we don't know about. Also if Sam attends private school he will have to give up his vocational training.

None of this makes any sense and frankly I can't believe that no one can see after sharing my story how unfair it is to the students. I'll be glad to talk with you about this further or if you have any suggestions, I'm all ears.

Thanking you in advance for your time.

Belynda Riley

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