Graduation requirements could leave some Oklahoma seniors without diplomas

About 5,400 current Oklahoma high school seniors still need to pass at least one of four state exams to earn their diplomas under a law passed in 2005 that required end-of-instruction exams for the graduating class of 2012.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND mrolland@opubco.com Published: November 13, 2011
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About 5,400 high school seniors in Oklahoma still need to pass at least one state exam before they can graduate in May, according to numbers released by the state Education Department this week.

That means about 84 percent of high school seniors are on track to get their diplomas.

“I have a problem with that,” said Karl Springer, superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools. “These are people who have been in school for 13 or 14 years, and they're now a senior, and 16 percent of the kids in this state are being told that they aren't going to graduate.”

Current seniors have two chances remaining to pass four end-of-instruction exams so they can walk across the stage with their classmates for a handshake and diploma. There are also alternative tests and projects the seniors can use to meet the requirements.

The graduating class of 2012 is the first group of students to face state graduation requirements created by lawmakers in 2005 as part of Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE) legislation.

Springer said in Oklahoma City schools about 40 percent of the district's 1,300 seniors still need to pass at least one exam before they can graduate.

“We're not going to give up on these kids,” Springer said. “We will work with them so they can graduate.”

Concerted effort

In Tulsa Public Schools — the second-largest school district in the state — about 67 percent of the 1,666 seniors have met the graduation requirements.

“We are looking at each individual student and determining what the issue is,” said Sharolyn Sorrels, director of education indicators for Tulsa Public Schools. “We're making a concerted effort to make sure that each student has a plan. ... We anticipate these students graduating in May.”

Educators, students and parents have known for seven years that to graduate this school year students would have to pass at least four of the seven exams. Last legislative session there was a push to postpone implementation of ACE. House Bill 1585 would have delayed the graduation requirements. The bill passed the education committee but was never taken up by the House or the Senate for a vote.

“I'm proud of the students who have met these requirements. This is an impressive percentage,” state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said in a statement released with the numbers. “I want to urge all students who have not yet completed the requirements to persevere and explore all options available to them that will lead to success and a diploma.”

The 5,400 students not on track to graduate can retake the state exams once this winter and once in the spring.

Kerri White, assistant state superintendent of student support, said for either testing window there will be adequate time for students to get results back and graduate with their class.

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