Department of Higher Education suspends testing requirement for A+ Scholarship eligibility

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The Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development Thursday issued guidance suspending the end-of-course exam requirement for 2021 high school seniors.

Previous guidance, issued in March 2020, suspended the requirement for high school seniors who graduated in 2020 because of school shutdowns at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Guidance issued during October 2020 indicated that the 2021 seniors must continue to score proficient or advanced on the Algebra I end-of-course exam, or achieve a combination of high school grade point average and ACT math subscore that meets the alternative to the end-of-course requirement.

However, upon further review of the pandemic’s impact on students and educators, the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development (MDHEWD) has determined it is appropriate to extend the Algebra I exam waiver to the class of 2021. 

According to the department in a news release Thursday, 2021 seniors will not be required to meet either the Algebra I end-of-course requirement or its GPA/ACT alternative to qualify for the A+ Scholarship.

Commissioner of higher education, Zora Mulligan, said the pandemic has already presented many challenges for students. 

“We want to continue helping students succeed beyond high school and believe current circumstances warrant suspending the end-of-course requirement for another academic year,” Mulligan said. 

When making this determination the MDHEWD took into consideration the State Board of Education’s decision to suspend the use of test results for accountability purposes. Other factors include:

  • While raw exam scores will be available later this spring, score levels (e.g., advanced, proficient, etc.) will not be announced until sometime in the summer, which would leave some seniors without timely information about their eligibility for the scholarship.
  • Another factor was the continued disruption in the availability of ACT testing sites, making it difficult for students who did not meet the primary requirement to meet the alternative.
  • Finally, the department recognizes that many students who are learning remotely continue to face challenges in meeting the end-of-course requirement.

Earlier in the academic year, the department provided information about COVID-19 related accommodations for high school students pursuing eligibility for the A+ scholarship. 

Those accommodations included clarification regarding satisfying the 95 percent attendance requirement for remote learning students, a reduction in the number of hours a student must complete in order to meet the tutoring and mentoring requirement, and guidance for mid-year high school graduates whose graduation was delayed due to the pandemic. 

The A+ Scholarship Program provides scholarship funds to eligible graduates of A+ designated high schools who attend a participating community college or vocational/technical school. More than 10,000 students utilize the A+ Scholarship at Missouri each academic year.

For more details on guidance issued for temporary eligibility requirements, visit https://dhewd.mo.gov/ppc/grants/aplusscholarship.php.