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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 Published: October 10, 2012

Local school boards should hear appeals from students who didn't receive a high school diploma because they failed to pass a required end-of-instruction test, a public school superintendent suggested to a legislative panel Tuesday.

Students also weighed in, saying the required tests are not doing what they were intended to do. A survey conducted by Watonga High School's leadership class showed two out of three seniors didn't try as hard on other tests after they passed the mandatory four end-of-instruction tests.

“Passing tests is now a mandate rather than learning for pleasure,” said student Desiree Richey.

A member of the House of Representatives Common Education Committee, however, said it's too soon to pull the plug on the state tests, which are given in subjects including algebra, English, history and science.

Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, said earlier fears that 6,000 students were at risk of not graduating this year because they had not passed enough of the mandatory tests were unfounded; the number was closer to 600. He said several school superintendents in his area support the required tests.

Rep. Jerry McPeak, who conducted Tuesday's interim study, said he would try again next year to get legislation passed to eliminate the mandate that all high school seniors must pass the battery of tests before receiving their diplomas.

McPeak, D-Warner, said he is willing to have a member of the Republican-controlled Legislature author the bill if that would help win passage.

Nelson said Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE) legislation has been successful because the mandatory tests lead students to take remediation and do academic course work in those areas.

“You challenge kids and kids will rise to the challenge,” he said.

By the numbers

Nelson said state education officials predicted in November that 6,400 students were at risk of not graduating because they had not passed enough of the tests. By April the number dropped to about 2,000.

The 2012 graduating class was the first bound by Achieving Classroom Excellence legislation, which was passed in 2005. Under the law, students must pass four of seven tests to receive a diploma. However, they also may take the tests multiple times, take alternate tests or complete projects to meet the requirements.

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