Thirty years ago, it made sense to require S.C. teens to pass the high school exit exam, a bare-bones test that ensured mastery of basic English and math skills. It had to be passed before students could receive high school diplomas.
Back then, "kids were leaving high schools in our state who couldn't read or write," said Melanie Barton, director of the Education Oversight Committee, to The State newspaper. "It (the exit exam) set a minimum level of competency."
Thanks to the development of federal and state standards and accountability measures, illiterate high school grads are far less of a problem. And the exit exam has become an education relic that is of little use to students, employers or educators.
We're pleased to see the test deleted from state law and replaced with more useful tests that speak to our 21st Century education needs.
Today, students must aim for -- and actively prepare for -- technical schools, four-year universities or careers that provide a livable wage.
The exit exam does not help with that effort. Required by state law since 1986, the test is administered to high school sophomores, most of whom easily pass it, then forget about it.
It's easy to see why the test is forgettable. It only evaluates mastery of a few basics -- and it does so two years prior to the time when students are scheduled to graduate.
It provides no direction on additional work they should do during their remaining time in high school to prepare them for college or the workforce. And it gives no indication whether a student should consider going to college or training for a job.
The situation has led South Carolina and several of the other 24 states that require students to pass an exit exam to seek new tests that provide information about students' aptitude for college or jobs.
We believe South Carolina may have hit on something that will do just that.
Starting next year, 11th graders will take two tests in place of the exit exam:
Two tests are likely to help some students decide they're not college material -- but they have great potential for a career right after high school.
And since students take the tests as sophomores, they will have time to hone skills, do internships and take coursework that prepares them for whatever path they choose.
So it's good-bye and good riddance to the high school exit exam. It's proof that South Carolina is serious about a 21st Century education approach.