Oklahoma school officials assess graduation appeals process

BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL ccoppernoll@opubco.com Published: September 30, 2012
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Sunday is the last day for students to receive a diploma and be considered part of the class of 2012.

About 550 of those seniors won't graduate with their class because of new laws that require them to pass state tests in subjects including algebra, English, history and science.

This graduating class is the first bound by Achieving Classroom Excellence, also known as ACE. Students must pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams, also known as EOIs, to receive a diploma.

Appeals process

This spring, the Legislature voted to require the state Board of Education to come up with an appeals process for students who didn't receive a diploma because they didn't pass the new tests.

The bill creating the appeals process was signed April 18, and the rules for the process were created in May.

It was a blur for students and school officials to keep track of, said Broken Arrow Chief Academic Officer Janet Dunlop.

“Last year, it was rushed and we were finding out a lot of things after the fact,” Dunlop said. “We just had a breakdown in communication between the school districts and the state department. Now that we've walked through it and know what the rules are, we can help kids a little better.”

In Broken Arrow, 21 students applied for waivers, and two were granted. Since then, 18 of the other students have met the graduation requirements anyway.

One student has not.

“He said, ‘I'm done,' and he left. He was frustrated,” she said. “His story really saddens me. He was a student we made promises to. He was a dropout. We got him to come back to school. ... He did what we asked him to do. He came to class. He made the grade. But he couldn't pass four out of seven EOIs. It's really heartbreaking, to be honest.”

The state Board of Education has ruled on 136 waiver requests thus far; 18 were approved. That's a pass rate of about 13 percent.

Two more will be considered in October. If approved, those students will be members of the Class of 2013.

Alternate avenues

Several students who were denied by the board have completed graduation requirements on their own, said Melissa White, executive director of counseling and ACE for the Education Department.