School officials, students ask Oklahoma lawmakers to change testing requirements

Several students and school district superintendents told a legislative committee that Oklahoma students are harmed when they meet required coursework but still can't get a high school diploma because they failed a mandated end-of-instruction test.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: October 10, 2012
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Melissa White, executive director of counseling and ACE for the state Education Department, said 591 students met all graduation requirements except passing one of the required tests. The state Board of Education has received 138 appeals. Of those, 90 were denied, 18 were approved, 27 were dismissed and 3 are pending.

The 591 students represent about 2 percent of the 34,434 high school seniors expected to graduate in 2012, she said. That compared with 1,674, or 5 percent, of this year's seniors who failed to complete required coursework.

Sand Springs Superintendent Lloyd Snow said hundreds of Oklahoma students who lacked passing one test — even though they attended school for 13 years and passed required courses — are deemed high school dropouts.

“Of these hundreds, many became so frustrated and disillusioned by the process that they simply gave up, regardless of the efforts of the school system,” he said.

Snow said local school boards should hear all such appeals. Legislation was passed this year that requires the state Board of Education to create an appeals process. Students have 30 days after being denied a diploma to appeal the decision to the state board, which has 45 days to act.

Nelson said he didn't like the idea of local school boards hearing appeals.

“I guarantee you 100 percent of the appeals that went to the state Board of Education” would have been approved if handled locally, he said.

Students who fail to pass a mandated test can earn their diploma by being a fifth-year senior and trying again or going to a junior college and passing 30 credit hours, he said.

“There are a lot of other alternatives,” Nelson said.