Only 8 of 31 pass nursing exit exam

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 4, 2010

NATCHEZ — A crisp white nursing uniform hangs in Kari Guido’s closet, but a new policy established by Alcorn State University’s School of Nursing prevents her from wearing it.

Guido and 22 other nursing students who attend ASU’s Natchez campus met privately with School of Nursing Dean Dr. Linda Godley Monday morning to discuss new scoring requirements for the Health Education Systems, Inc. nursing exit exam.

In August 2008, when Guido began her studies at ASU, the school’s policy stated a student must score at least 75 percent on the departmental comprehensive exit exam — the HESI exit exam — to graduate, according to a copy of the policy provided by students.

Students were allowed to take the exam three times beginning in March, and prior to each retake, students were required to work with faculty to develop and implement an individualized performance plan.

In August 2009, Godley sent a memorandum to faculty, staff and students stating students must score an average of 75 percent on teacher-made tests prior to the exam, and a minimum score of 900 on the exam. According to a copy of the memorandum, also provided by students, the exam will be administered only one time.

Thirty-one students took the exit exam April 29. Only eight passed, Guido said.

Though Godley’s memorandum is dated August 2009, students say they didn’t receive notice until October 2009. They were asked to sign Godley’s memorandum, indicating they had reviewed the new policy. All the students gave their signature, but not without reservations.

“I was under the impression we had three chances to make a 75 percent conversion score or higher,” Guido said. “We’re the only school I know of in Mississippi that has to have a 900. Many of us would not have chosen to go to Alcorn if they were going to change the policy.”

Student Rachel Primm said she would have attended another institution had she known ASU would change its policy a year into her studies.

“We did a petition in October and they denied us,” Primm said. “If we had known before August, there’s a possibility we could have gone somewhere else.”

If students were evaluated according to the previous policy, the majority the class would have passed the exam, Guido said.

“Most of us passed through HESI’s eyes, but not through Alcorn’s,” Guido said.

Most nursing schools, including University Medical Center in Jackson, require students to take the exam. UMC spokesman Matt Westerfield said Monday students must score at least 850 on the exam to graduate.

With the nursing school’s pinning ceremony set for Thursday and graduation set for Saturday, some feel their work was for naught.

“I quit my job to go to school,” student LaTorri Smith said. “I feel like I’ve been done a great injustice.”

“You sacrifice two years of your life, and they tell you six days before the pinning ceremony you’re not going to graduate,” student Nia Day said.

“They’re raising our standards, but they’re not raising the standards of our faculty and staff.”

Parents of the students met privately with ASU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Richard Green seeking answers. Gary and Carolyn Guido, Kari Guido’s parents, were in attendance.

“It’s not a sour grapes issue,” Gary Guido said. “Our students passed the mark. They made the grades they were supposed to (according to the previous policy), and they should graduate under that policy.”

Students were asked by the nursing faculty to draft a petition for reinstating the previous policy Monday afternoon, but the petition was denied. Both students and parents exited the campus late Monday afternoon. Kari Guido said her family is considering taking legal action. Others hope ASU will reconsider its decision.

“They said they’re not going to honor our request even though 77 percent passed under the policy they changed,” Primm said. “I feel like they’re out of control.”

Repeated attempts to contact Godley and Green were unsuccessful.

Controversy surrounding the exam is not new to ASU. Seventy of 91 students failed the exam on their first try in 2007, prompting ASU to offer second and third retakes. In 2006, students protested the exam, administered online, was fraught with technical malfunctions.