The Edmond Sun

October 10, 2012

House interim study looks at schools' End of Instruction testing

Cathy Spaulding
CNHI News Service

OKLAHOMA CITY — A local school board, not the state, can best decide if a senior merits a high school diploma, a Tulsa area school superintendent said.

Sand Springs School Superintendent Lloyd Snow shared his concern Tuesday morning at an interim study on the impact of End of Instruction testing requirements on the class of 2012. State Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner, a critic of the testing requirements, hosted the study, at which educators, parents and students told how the requirements affected them. A representative of the Oklahoma Board of Education also spoke, McPeak said.

State law requires high school seniors to show proficiency on four of seven End of Instruction exams to receive a high school diploma. Students must pass Algebra I and English II, plus two of these: Algebra II, Biology I, English III, geometry or U.S. history.

McPeak, D-Warner, said he hopes the study showed some of the flaws in how the EOI testing requirement has been handled.

“They should at least allow the appeals process to be handled by the local school board,” McPeak said.

Students withheld diplomas for not passing the four tests currently appeal to the State Board of Education.

Snow said he proposed in the study that local boards of education should be the ones to hear student appeals on withheld diplomas. He said a local board would understand circumstances that might have caused a student to fail the EOI tests.

The State Department of Education said 591 high school students did not demonstrate proficiency on all the tests required to receive a diploma. The State Board received 135 appeals. Of those, the board approved 18, denied 90 and dismissed 27 for various reasons including students showing they passed the tests or they were “fifth year” high school seniors. Three appeals are pending.

Melissa White, the department’s executive director of counseling and ACE, said she had not had time Thursday to consider the study’s proposal to have local school boards handle test appeals.

“I think we should look at last year as a learning year. What can we do to not get into such a predicament in the spring of the senior year,” White said.

Snow said withholding a diploma from students who do not pass the tests is “a punitive action.”

He said that, because they did not pass the required number of tests, 591 Oklahoma students “are now dropouts.”

McPeak said Warner High School senior Billy Gardner — who passed all his EOI tests and scored a 36 on the ACT — told people at the study that his classmates worked hard to earn their diplomas and deserved to receive them.

However, 2012 Stigler senior Canon McCarter said he passed five EOI tests, but could not get a diploma because he did not pass one of the required tests.

White said the state reported last November that 6,000 Oklahoma high school seniors had not demonstrated proficiency on the required number of tests. Schools managed to reduce that number to 591.

“That means 5,500 students are better prepared for college,” she said.