2,000 Oklahoma high school students may not receive diplomas
The class of 2012 is the first group of Oklahoma high school seniors that have to pass a round of state exams before receiving their high school diplomas. As graduation season winds down, about 2,000 students still haven't passed those tests.
Melinda Turner already had walked across the stage as a high school graduate when her principal pulled her aside a couple days later.
“My heart dropped,” Turner said. “I felt like I went to school for nothing. I was so close.”
Turner had passed all her classes, but she didn't really graduate.
The Broken Arrow student failed the last of her state tests — by one point.
“I met all the requirements to receive my diploma, except for passing this one last EOI test,” Turner said. “My attendance is good. I do my work. I passed all my classes and I have all my credits.”
Turner and about 2,000 other high school seniors in Oklahoma have completed high school but will be denied diplomas because they did not meet new state testing requirements.
Achieving Classroom Excellence, a 2005 law, requires students pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams, also known as EOIs.
The class of 2012 is the first class required to meet the test requirements to earn their diplomas.
More than 30,000 students already have done so, and the number is expected to grow as the school year winds down.
In November, about 5,400 students still had to pass at least one test to graduate. Now, about 2,000 remain, according to state Education Department statistics.
The numbers show more and more students are mastering their school subjects, said Melissa White, executive director of counseling and ACE for the state Education Department. The testing process makes Oklahoma diplomas mean more.
“If they deserve that diploma, then they deserve it,” White said.
New appeals process
Students who still need to pass their tests have a second chance, though.
The state Board of Education has approved a new appeals process that allows any student to ask for a waiver of the test requirements. Before the new process was approved, only students with extenuating circumstances could make an appeal.
The rules were created in response to House Bill 2970, which the governor signed into law April 18. The law ordered the state Education Department to create the appeals process.
Students have 30 days to appeal after they are denied a diploma.
The board then has 45 days to respond.
Turner and about a dozen other Broken Arrow classmates already had filled out the paperwork, only to find out Thursday the process changed with the implementation of the new appeals process.
“We can't even make a decision ourselves, so why are we holding these kids hostage while we sort out the details?” said Janet Dunlop, chief academic officer for Broken Arrow Schools.
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