Oklahoma considers dropping high-school exit exams

Oklahoma’s landmark 2005 legislation, which mandated that all high-school students pass exams to be eligible for graduation, may be killed off before it even takes effect. The law, Achieving Classroom Excellence, requires seniors to pass sophomore-level tests in English, algebra and two other subjects—biology, algebra II, geometry, U.S. history or junior-level English—starting with the Class of 2012.

Legislators are now backtracking because of the high number of students the law would likely leave without a diploma—some 6,000 in the Tulsa area alone. Even the co-author of the original legislation, Representative Jeannie McDaniel (D-Tulsa), has withdrawn her support for it.

“I think when it was originally passed, we anticipated some remedial work, maybe mentoring,” she told Tulsa World last week, noting that budget cuts may have prevented schools from providing enough of this remedial support. “If we’ve fallen short in that area, then I think we need to stand behind the kids and do what’s right.”

New legislation, introduced by Representative Jerry McPeak (D-Warner), would eliminate the testing requirement. “If it hits the floor, I bet this bill will pass by 80 percent,” he said. “This isn’t Democrat or Republican; it’s about just treating people right.”

School districts and states across the country have been under pressure in recent years to increase the number of high-school graduates. Nationally, somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of high-school students fail to graduate.

Oklahoma wouldn’t be the first state to shelve graduation tests in hopes of boosting graduation rates. In April 2011, Georgia eased its requirements by cutting the number of exams from four to just one.

At the same time, however, other states are increasing standards and creating more challenging standardized tests.

New York has vowed to make its high-school graduation exams tougher after a study last year showed that even students who pass the math test may be placed in remedial math classes in college. Florida recently raised its cut-off scores on all standardized exams, including those in high school, and is developing additional end-of-course assessments.

Statistics showing that large numbers of high-school graduates are unprepared for college coursework have fueled the push to make tests more difficult. Right now, many of those who do earn a diploma must enroll in at least one remedial course in college.

McPeak defended his proposal to Tulsa World as a necessity for students who want to go into the military, which requires a high-school diploma. “If this kid doesn’t get his diploma and can’t get into the military, what do you think he’s going to do?” he said.

But a high-school diploma does not guarantee entry into the military. The military has its own entrance exam, which tests nine subjects, such as word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, arithmetic reasoning and general science. Nearly a quarter of those who take the test don’t pass it, according to a 2010 study.

POSTED BY ON January 3, 2012

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[...] is an effort to repeal or delay the new graduation requirements because about 16% of the state’s seniors began the year needing to pass one or more of their [...]


I am not opposed to exit exams for seniors, TYPICAL seniors. However, some special needs children who we know will not be able to hold down a technical job or a high paying job, who struggle just to learn basic living skills so they will be able to be independent enough to live in a group home should be exempt from these tests. These kids may be able to learn a trade by hands on instruction and they will not be able to get into a program at say TTC without a diploma. They should be having to take courses in school that teach them how to function in the world after high school, very basic abc’s and +-/* math, enough to balance a checkbook and compare prices at the grocery store. Not all special needs children are in this catagory, some are brilliant enough to understand the curriculum and pass the exit exams and go onto college, but some are not. The best thing we can do for those who cannot do so is to teach them life skills. Unless we want the citizens of the state to flip the bill for these kids not being productive because the school system didn’t want to teach them what they needed to be a productive citizen. And it takes state and federal money to invest in the education of all students including those who need life skills more than algebra or history, not to say that those aren’t important because they are, but these kids will never use them. Everyone is teachable, but teaching them what they need depending on their abilities is the best thing we could do for these kids.

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