High school graduation requirements causing concern


OKLAHOMA CITY — Some lawmakers, educators, parents, and students are upset over reforms in our state’s public education system and stated their feelings at the State Capitol Wednesday.

The outcry is over a program called ACE.

This is a bi-partisan law passed in 2005 under Governor Henry.

It increases expectations for our state’s students.

Under the ACE reform, students take a series of tests to prove they understand the material they’ve learned.

The tests have been in place for a while but this is the first year students can not graduate high school if they fail the tests.

Those opposed said the tests aren’t an accurate measure of a child’s potential.

State Representative Jerry McPeak said testing requirements for Oklahoma’s high school students will unfairly result in drop-outs.

He said, “These children are about to be lost.”

Jana Purcell is an English teacher from Sand Springs.

Her son Jase Purcell has Attention Deficit Disorder and is not a good test taker but he has to pass to graduate.

Jase said, “Four years of school is a little bit more important than one single test. This test ain’t going to matter. Colleges don’t look at your scores, they look at your G.P.A.”

Jenks Middle School Principal Rob Miller said the state isn’t being held to the same standard as the kids.

He said they don’t always return test results in the timeframe stated.

He also argues the tests need more oversight.

He said, “They are great kids who do good things at school, model good character and citizenship, participate in activities. They’ve done everything right but because they can’t pass four of seven end of instruction tests, we are going to punish them by withholding a high school diploma which will affect them for the rest of their life. From a moral perspective, I just thing it’s wrong.”

Damon Gardinhire is State Superintendent Janet Barresi’s spokesperson.

He said those superintendents speaking at the Capitol Wednesday have a different view of how students should be educated.

He said of the superintendents, “What you have is essentially a small group of malcontents who have fought this reform from the very beginning.”

He points out the tests are state law and can’t be ignored or dismissed by the Department of Education.

He also said the tests are designed to clamp down on grade inflation.

Gardenhire said, “We need to be able to demonstrate that a diploma in Oklahoma, a high school diploma, has real objective meaningful value. That it demonstrates that a student who is graduating from an Oklahoma high school is ready for real life in the 21st Century.”

Some state educators argue if kids are getting good grades, they should be able to pass the tests.

There are exceptions for certain circumstances and students are allowed to pass the exam in other ways, if needed,  such as creating a portfolio to prove they understand the material.