Dropout rate expected to rise
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Monday, February 20, 2012
2/20/12 at 7:48 AM
See how well the Sand Springs Class of 2012 did on completing ACE graduation requirements.
See ACE impact on Sand Springs Public Schools.
Oklahoma's high school dropout rate will increase 10 percent this year due to a law requiring students to pass an additional battery of tests to graduate, some Sand Springs educators say.
In a letter sent to the governor and members of the Legislature last week, the authors said they have heard state Education Department officials boast about the expected 90-percent success rate of the Achieving Classroom Excellence graduation requirements. They're worried about what the future holds for those students who don't succeed.
"In Sand Springs, we fully support setting higher standards for children," the letter read. "Although our current assessment system is cumbersome, we understand the place for assessments in public education. What we fear is that the stories of the children who fall into the lowest 10 percent are going unheard, as it is no surprise the majority of these children are economically disadvantaged and have no parental advocates.
"Without options, many of these children will become a drain on the state economy, instead of an active contributor to society."
Sand Springs board of education president Mike Mullins signed the letter, along with Superintendent Lloyd Snow, assistant superintendents Lori Kerns and Lonetta Sprague, chief financial officer and legal counsel Gary Watts and special education and federal programs director Sherry Durkee.
The class of 2012 is the first group of students to face the state graduation requirements created by lawmakers in 2005 as part of Achieving Classroom Excellence, or ACE, legislation.
Each student is required to pass at least four of seven end-of-instruction exams to get a high school diploma. The exams are in Algebra I and II, English II and III, Biology I, geometry and U.S. history.
Concerns among Oklahoma public educators continue to rise as the end of the school year approaches, particularly since most students who haven't passed the new rigorous tests have earned the required credits and met state requirements for graduation that were required of previous high school seniors.
"This 10 percent of the Class of 2012 in Oklahoma could be the next great soldiers, loyal and dedicated industry workers, and some could and would achieve goals of college with continued support," the letter read. "However, these students are about to be labeled high school dropouts."
Of Sand Springs' 352 high school seniors, 316 have met all ACE requirements and will graduate with a standard Oklahoma diploma, the letter said.
Nineteen students have met all local graduation requirements but still need to pass one end-of-instruction (EOI) test to graduate. All of those students are on individualized remediation plans, and administrators believe each will reach the goal of graduating in May.
But 17 students have met all local graduation requirements yet still haven't passed two or more EOI tests despite being on individualized remediation plans and taking alternative exams. Most are exploring beginning projects, another way to meet the new requirements, but some students likely won't complete them due to time constraints, administrators said.
Those students who are unable to pass four of the seven exams may choose to enroll as a fifth-year senior and continue testing, despite having met all credit requirements, or embrace the label of high-school dropout and pursue their GED, they said.
"Public schools are not sitting on their hands, defending the status quo, or resisting higher standards," the letter reads. "In the real world, there are real kids with real circumstances that prevent them from having the support they need to stay in school an extra year in ACE courses, regardless of the support given by the school system.
"Despite their unfortunate home lives, decent jobs will not be an option and dreams of the military will be gone. Many of these kids have been knocked down, but they have gotten up, every morning, and come to school. They need the Legislature to provide them with a third option. If they do not, where will these children be in two years?"
The 17 students in Sand Springs not on track to graduate from high school:
* Some students were behind on credits entering their senior year. When this happens, they have to take these required classes in place of their electives. ACE remediation classes are electives, so there was no room in their schedule. These kids were provided after-school tutoring and virtual remediation options to prepare for failed EOI's - but had no time in the school day for actual ACE courses.
- Five of them are on individualized education programs for students with disabilities
- Four students live on their own and have full-time jobs
- Two students are parents
- Two students are homeless
- Six students have been held back one grade
- Four students have goals of joining the military
- One student has perfect attendance
- One student has no running water at home
- Three students are former dropouts who came back to the alternative high school with dreams of graduating
- One student lives in a homeless shelter with his mother and siblings
- One student has attended five different school districts
- Three students cannot be enrolled in ACE remediation courses due to credit deficiencies*
- Fourteen students are economically disadvantaged
Source: Sand Springs Public Schools
Kim Archer 918-581-8315