Robert Brown stood in front of the Oklahoma Board of Education Friday and asked its members not to let the outcome of a test determine his future.
Although he didn't get the answer he was hoping for, Brown said he's still going forward with his dream of going to college.
Brown, 18, is a senior at Central High School in Tulsa. Friday, the board heard appeals from Brown and three other high school seniors who were hoping to get their diplomas, despite not having passed a series of tests required for graduation.
The 2005 Achieving Classroom Excellence Act, or ACE, requires Oklahoma students to pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams to graduate. Exams are offered in a variety of subjects, including U.S. history, geometry and algebra.
Another law passed in April required the state Department of Education to set up an appeals process for students denied a diploma. The law allows the board to give students a waiver in extenuating circumstances.
The department has fielded 137 appeals this year. Only 17 have been approved, including two approved Friday.
During the meeting, the board voted to deny Brown's appeal and award diplomas to two other applicants, who weren't present for the meeting and weren't named.
A fourth applicant's appeal was dismissed. Department spokesman Damon Gardenhire said appeals are typically dismissed when the applicant files the appeal, then passes a test, making the appeal unnecessary.
State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said the ACE requirements were enacted in an effort to ensure that Oklahoma's high school diplomas have substantial value after the student graduates. Requiring students to pass a series of exams before graduation ensures those students have mastered the subjects required, she said.
“It is absolutely critical that Oklahoma stand behind their diploma and that their diploma mean something,” she said.
Barresi emphasized that the denial of Brown's appeal doesn't mean the board denied him a diploma outright. Students whose appeals are denied have a number of options, including retaking the exams during a summer testing period, which ends in September.
Students who don't pass the standard exams have the option of completing a project that demonstrates mastery of the subject.
Brown is planning to attend Langston University in the fall, where he has been offered a band scholarship. Eventually, he'd like to go to law school.
After the meeting, board member Joy Hofmeister assured Brown the department would work with him and the university to get him into college.
Although he didn't leave the meeting with the news he'd hoped to hear, Brown said he's committed to getting his diploma and going to school.
“I still want to be a lawyer,” he said. “I'm not going to give up on my dream.”