Starting this year, Oklahoma high school seniors who do not pass four of seven End of Instruction exams will not get their diplomas.
But superintendents at five Ada-area school districts said almost all of their seniors have met the goal.
All but one of Ada school district’s 160 seniors have satisfied Achieving Classroom Excellence requirements, Ada Superintendent Pat Harrison said Tuesday. He said the remaining student has taken the required End of Instruction (EOI) exam but results are not available yet.
Byng Superintendent Todd Crabtree said his school district has 88 seniors all of whom are on track to receive their diplomas.
“All of ours have done the testing, and one is completing a project,” he said.
Latta Schools Superintendent Cliff Johnson said the 38 seniors at Latta High School have met all ACE requirements. Thirty-five passed their EOI exams and three met the requirement through alternate tests or other means.
Vanoss Superintendent Janet Blocker said out of 30 seniors, only one is currently completing ACE requirements for graduation. She noted the testing window ends Friday and results should be available by the middle of next week.
Roff Superintendent Craig McVay said all 26 seniors in his district met the standard. He said 25 satisfied the requirement through testing, and one took another route to the same goal.
“It wasn’t easy, but we got all of them through,” McVay said.
Under state law, students must pass Algebra I, English II and two of five additional EOI tests to receive their diploma. The five additional tests are Algebra II, Biology I, English III, geometry and United States history.
The requirements are designed to boost student achievement and prepare high school graduates for college and the work force.
The Oklahoma Department of Education offers several options for students who can’t pass the exams, including taking them again, passing an alternative test or completing a project that demonstrates mastery of the course work. Students who have special circumstances, such as medical conditions that make testing difficult, may be able to satisfy the requirements through alternate tests or end-of-course projects.
A new law, written by Ada Rep. Todd Thomsen, which has already taken effect, set up an appeals process for students who are denied a diploma. Those students have 30 days to appeal the denial to the state board of education, which has 45 days to take action on the appeal.
Area superintendents said they had mixed feelings about the ACE requirements.
“We should have high standards and expectations for our students, but I’m concerned that a test that measures what a student knows on one particular day isn’t an accurate measure as to whether or not a student should graduate,” Johnson said.
He said he thought schools should give more weight to a student’s achievements over 14 years of education instead of relying only on tests.
Crabtree said he did not think a student’s chances of earning a diploma should be based only on test results.
“I feel like it’s pretty punitive to go to school for 14 years, from pre-K through 12, and have everything about graduation hinge on test performance on a few given days,” he said.
McVay said no one knows whether graduation exams can accurately predict whether a high school student is ready for college.
“No one really can point to an item on an End of Instruction U.S. history exam, for example, and prove that a student needs to know the answer to graduate,” he said in an email. “Most of our students felt that the questions were trivial and minute fact that left out the big picture.”
Harrison said he thought students should be held accountable for their performance, but there are special circumstances when a student — for any number of reasons — might need to file an appeal after failing to pass a high-stakes exam.
“And so, I think it’s a good thing that students have that appeals process at the state level,” he said.