WHEN lawmakers voted in 2005 to require Oklahoma high school seniors to pass end-of-instruction exams in order to graduate, supporters argued a diploma should be more than a certificate of attendance. We agreed, believing that raising the bar benefits children.
The early results are now in. Students and teachers are meeting the challenge.
Although this was the first year students were required to pass four of seven EOIs to graduate, they've been taking the tests for several years now. In 2008, just 53 percent of students passed the Algebra II exam. This year, 74 percent did. The pass rate for geometry surged from 68 percent to 82 percent over those four years. The pass rate for English III jumped from 75 percent to 85 percent and the percentage passing Algebra I also increased.
That's a remarkable improvement showing the benefit of higher standards. This year's seniors were the first to go all the way through high school knowing they'd have to pass the tests to graduate — and that knowledge clearly made a big difference.
Administrators at several northeastern Oklahoma schools loudly protested the graduation standards, yet the Tulsa World reports a high percentage of students at many of those schools passed. Kudos to the teachers who worked with struggling students even as their local administrators acted as if they were wasting their time!
Most of all, thanks to the vast majority of educators and administrators at Oklahoma's 522 school districts who didn't bellyache about standards, but instead focused on helping children learn. Lawmakers did the right thing by resisting calls to repeal or delay graduation standards this year; they should hold their ground in the future.
Moving ahead, officials must continue apace with similar reforms. Last year, lawmakers voted to end social promotion and require third-graders to demonstrate basic reading mastery before advancing. That law will impact students starting in the 2013-14 school year. Test results show 72 percent of Oklahoma third-graders were proficient in reading in 2012, up slightly from 2011. We're pleased to see improvement, but the state should continue to aim higher.