Senator files bill to change end-of-instruction testing requirement
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Monday, December 17, 2012
12/17/12 at 7:21 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - A state senator has filed a bill that would essentially gut a controversial law requiring students to pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams to earn a diploma.
Sen. Earl Garrison's Senate Bill 11 would allow students who achieve a certain score on the ACT to earn a diploma and not require them to take end-of-instruction exams.
Garrison, D-Muskogee, said he has yet to determine what the required ACT score would be.
"We have kids who have been taking the ACT for 50 years now in Oklahoma," said Garrison, a former educator. "It is a better indicator of how they are really doing than any other test we can give them."
To graduate, a student currently must pass Algebra I and English II and end-of-instruction exams in two of the following: Algebra II, Biology I, English III, Geometry or U.S. History.
The current law also sets up alternative tests and other means to show successful mastery of subject matter. A law passed last session sets up an appeals process for the state Board of Education.
The 2012 graduating class was the first bound by the testing requirement. The state Education Department reported that 591 students met all graduation requirements except passing the required tests. The state Board of Education received 138 appeals, most of which were denied or dismissed.
Some educators and students last session lobbied for changes, saying a student might have done well in all classes, but for a variety of reasons might not have been able to pass the required number of exams.
Garrison's measure also would let local districts decide whether a student should receive a diploma, regardless of end-of-instruction exams.
"I believe those decisions, whether or not a student graduates, ought to be left up to the local board," which is elected by residents in the district, Garrison said.
"It is ludicrous to me to suddenly believe the state is in a better position to evaluate whether or not a student can graduate," he said.
Sen. John Ford, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he expects several pieces of legislation this session seeking to alter the end-of-instruction exam law.
Students have several alternatives if they can't pass the exams, said Ford, R-Bartlesville.
He has a concern that a change would make the districts less accountable and not consistent in meeting the high standards set by the state.
"We believe the current end-of-instruction system is the best," said Joel Robison, State Department of Education chief of staff. "We believe it is important for those end-of-instruction tests to remain in place to ensure our students are getting instruction in the most important classes at the local district level."
Jeff Mills, Oklahoma State School Boards Association executive director, said the ACT is a good alternative to the end-of-instruction exams.
His organization supports letting local districts decide whether a student should receive a diploma.
Original Print Headline: Senator files bill to change EOI testing requirement
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