The state Board of Education debated Wednesday whether exemptions are too broad or too narrow for students who can't graduate from high school because they are unable to pass end-of-instruction exams.
The board discussed changes to several reforms, including the A-F school evaluation system and teacher certification, at a special meeting Wednesday. The board is expected to vote on the proposed changes Thursday.
One hotly-discussed issue was end-of-instruction tests, which Oklahoma high school students are required to pass before receiving their diplomas.
Last year, 591 of about 34,000 graduates of the class of 2012 did not receive diplomas because they failed to pass the tests.
Several changes are proposed to the rules governing end-of-instruction exams, including defining the term “extenuating circumstances,” which the board can consider when granting a waiver to the test requirements. The board also can exempt students from more than one test. Last year, exemptions were only granted for students who fell short of the requirements by one failed exam.
One of the changes would be allowing a waiver of the test requirements for students accepted to four-year universities. Last year, waivers were given to students admitted to “selective” institutions.
The term “selective” institutions has to be addressed, said Stephanie Moser Goins, assistant general counsel for the state Education Department.
“That's a rather squishy definition,” Goins said. “ ... The goal was always to make this a specific exemption for a narrow set of circumstances. The concern here is that we open up this language too broadly, we'll gut the underlying policy of the rule, which is to raise the bar on achievement.”
Board Member Joy Hoffmeister, who represents Tulsa, said the rule doesn't take into account low-income students who can't afford pricier institutions. She cited programs at Tulsa Community College.