SEVERAL school administrators and state Rep. Jerry McPeak called last week for effectively gutting the law requiring Oklahoma high school seniors to pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams to get a diploma. The tests are in Algebra I, English II, Algebra II, geometry, English III, biology or U.S. history.
The law already allows for a number of alternatives to the tests, but the administrators want a new appeals process, presumably for mass waivers making the whole law meaningless.
Unintentionally, however, their arguments illustrate why graduation standards are so important.
McPeak, D-Warner, noted that 17 seniors in the Sand Springs district had failed to pass their tests as of last March. He said four of those students lived “on their own” and had jobs, two were teen parents, two were homeless, six had repeated a previous grade, one attended five school districts in a single year and 14 were “economically disadvantaged.”
But McPeak let it slip that all but “three or four” had since passed their graduation tests. So Oklahoma's diploma requirements incentivized a group of homeless, low-income, teen parents to master high school learning — and this is a bad thing? Rather than supporting repeal, that graphically illustrates how high standards benefit students with the greatest need.
At the news conference, test critic and Jenks Middle School Principal Rob Miller was introduced as “an officer in the United States Marines” and “Major Miller.” As it happens, a high school diploma won't get you in the military; applicants must take a test.
A 2010 Education Trust report, which examined the military aptitude test battery results from 2004 to 2009, found that 23.2 percent of Oklahoma high school graduates didn't meet the minimum standard necessary to enlist in the Army, with 39.5 percent of black applicants from Oklahoma failing.