This article was originally published by WireTap.
July 3, 2008
My name is Latricia Wilson. I was born in Gary, Indiana but currently reside in Memphis, Tennessee. I am 25 years old and a student at Tennessee Technology Center. Just a few years ago I wasn’t sure if I would be able to achieve any higher education or vocational training because my high school denied me a standard diploma despite the fact that I had completed all of my courses.
I was denied a proper diploma because I had failed to pass the math section of a new end of year test by a few points.
The Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program Achievement Tests (TCAP), now called the Gateway Exam (PDF), are part of the state’s assessment program. The high-stakes exit exam I took is part of a growing trend around the country leaving thousands of students without diplomas.
Prior to graduating high school, my career goals were to be a hairstylist and television makeup artist. After being denied a standard high school diploma in 2002 for failing to pass the TCAP math section, I was denied entry into all beauty schools even though I was on the technical/vocational path in high school and had taken cosmetology classes during my high school career. I was also denied entry into other Memphis technical and community colleges and universities.
I struggled as an adult to make a living wage to support myself. I worked as a waitress for years, took on double shifts and was just barely able to pay my rent. I was getting further away from my career goals and sinking deeper into poverty and debt. Eventually, I was evicted from my apartment. I’ve truly experienced how difficult it is to be an independent adult without a valid high school diploma. But I decided to do something about it, and started a quest to regain my rightful degree.
This is my own experience with Tennessee’s public education system and how I was able to change it.
I was one of many students denied a high school diploma for failure to pass the TCAP tests in 2002. I had a mild learning disability in math, which made passing those TCAP sections difficult. I was enrolled in math resource classes from the ninth grade, and instructed at a slightly lower grade level than my classmates. Despite this, I was repeatedly administered the TCAP on a higher grade level than the one at which I was taught. As a result, I was unable to pass the math section by the end of senior year.