African-American and Hispanic students failed the Georgia's mandated graduation exam at higher rates than whites or Asians
"We're working every single day here in Georgia to make up for a long history of educating some well and others not so well," Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox said.
In order to graduate, students must pass a standardized exam in English, math, social studies and science. They receive four chances to pass the assessment. If they flunk just one section, they can't earn a high school diploma without winning an appeal from the state Board of Education.
More than 4,600 high school seniors last year left without a degree because they could not pass the test.
Cox said the new public school curriculum, designed to be more challenging academically, and other state programs to improve teaching or provide extra attention to students having difficulty in school should result in better test scores.
Most of Georgia's public school students passed the exam and in the past parents and sometimes students have criticized the graduation exam as too easy. But some experts are concerned that thousands of students flunk the basic skills assessment yearly.
The science portion of the test illustrated the widest gap between whites and minorities - 80 percent of whites passed, nearly 30 percentage points higher than the 51 percent of blacks who passed.
Another gap revealed itself with the English portion of the exam, which showed that while 98 percent of whites passed, 88 percent of Hispanics passed.
Gap not closing for minorities