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Oklahoma graduation law waivers by state education board should be last resort

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: June 5, 2012

WE'VE heard more than enough rhetoric in recent months — in the past few years, really — over the Achieving Classroom Excellence law that requires Oklahoma students to pass four subject-area tests in order to graduate from high school.

The law approved in 2005 was never a partisan effort; it had support among Republicans and became law under a Democrat's governorship. Since its passage, some school administrators and lawmakers have fought for its repeal. The fight reached its fever pitch just in the past few months as reality sunk in that some seniors wouldn't graduate as anticipated with a high school diploma.

Come Tuesday, reality will take center stage. The state Board of Education will hold a special meeting to hear appeals from students denied diplomas under the ACE rules.

State Education Department officials anticipate the board will entertain appeals from 31 students (or their parents if the students are younger than 18) seeking waivers from the law. The students are from several districts, including Broken Arrow, Tulsa, Wagoner and Oklahoma City. Education Department staff will make a recommendation based on information students and schools submitted. Some of those students are almost certain to win their appeals because they've satisfied the requirements in other ways, including meeting the board's recent caveat granting an automatic waiver for students admitted to selective colleges. The appeals will be on a consent docket although board members can opt to hear individual pleas.

We don't envy the challenge before the board. This is the first round of appeals since the Legislature approved and Gov. Mary Fallin signed a law in April that defined an appeals process granting students a hearing. Students have 30 days after the denial of their high school diploma to file an appeal. State officials then have 45 days to render a decision.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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