The effort to gut Oklahoma's new end-of-instruction tests for high school seniors continues apace.
Some administrators spent the 2011-12 school year crying foul, wringing their hands and complaining that the tests were too punitive — essentially because not every senior passed the required four of seven tests. Now comes a bill by state Sen. Earl Garrison, D-Muskogee, that would allow students who earn a certain ACT score to graduate without taking the end-of-instruction tests.
Those who score an 18 on the ACT, which has a top score of 36, would qualify for graduation under Garrison's bill. He says the ACT is a better indicator of a student's aptitude “than any other test we can give them.” Yet the argument against existing graduation exams — that many students do well in the classroom but struggle with standardized tests — also applies to the ACT.
What a sad state of affairs. The law enacting EOI exams was passed by the Legislature in 2005, giving Oklahoma schools seven years to prepare. And most students did just fine — in excess of 90 percent of Oklahoma students passed their required exams last school year. At one point this summer, only 22 of the state's 522 school districts had any students pursuing appeals of their failed EOI efforts. Only about 120 high school seniors — three-tenths of 1 percent of the 39,000-plus seniors — appealed.
Consider that in 2008, just 53 percent of students passed the Algebra II exam, which is one of the seven EOI tests. This past year, 74 percent did. Eighty-two percent passed geometry, compared with just 68 percent four years ago. The pass rate for English III jumped from 75 percent to 85 percent.
Most students, with the help of their teachers, are indeed willing — and able — to reach for and meet greater expectations. Repeated efforts to water down requirements or, in the case of Garrison's bill simply avoid them, are a disservice to students and teachers.