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Originally posted May 25, 2012
Automatic waiver approved for end-of-instruction exams
BY KIM ARCHER Tulsa World Staff Writer
(Reprinted with Permission. This is not an endorsement.)
OKLAHOMA CITY - The state Board of Education voted Thursday to grant an automatic waiver to students who have been admitted to a selective college or university but who have been denied a high school diploma under a high-stakes testing law.
"If based on grades and class ranking, a student is admitted to a university, that presents an extenuating circumstance," state Superintendent Janet Barresi said.
A selective college or university refers to institutions that have a criteria-based admissions process.
The board voted to amend proposed rules presented by department staff to include the automatic waiver. The board approved the overall rules at Thursday's regular board meeting.
This is the first year that seniors must pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams to receive a high school diploma.
Last month, Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law a measure requiring that the Education Department create an appeals process allowing students to argue their case before the state board.
The rules require any appeal to be vetted by a review committee that will present the board with a recommendation to approve or deny the student's waiver request, said Kimberly Richey, assistant general counsel for the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
If the board decides it needs more information, members could ask for a hearing on the request.
Students admitted to a selective college or university will still have to submit an appeal and evidence of their college admittance to the review committee, which will have the authority to automatically grant a waiver.
Broken Arrow Chief Academic Officer Janet Dunlop and Jenks Superintendent Kirby Lehman asked the board to grant all 2012 seniors a waiver from the required testing.
Lehman said a "smorgasboard" of extenuating circumstances affects every student denied a high school diploma this year under the Achieving Classroom Excellence law, including concerns about the validity of the tests as a board charged with overseeing the quality of the tests has never met.
"Do we have a different standard for adults who do not have to comply with the law and for students who do have to comply with the law?" he asked.
Dunlop said 21 students in Broken Arrow are "held in limbo" because at least seven of them do not yet know if they passed the tests.
Assistant State Superintendent Kerri White said the test results for multiple-choice tests were released to districts May 16, and results of written tests, such as English II and III, will be posted May 29.
The board approved the appeals review committee to include Kerri White; Melissa White, ACE director; Chris Caram, deputy superintendent of academic affairs; Richard Caram, state director of C3 schools; and Rene Axtell, assistant state superintendent for special education services.
Students would have 30 days after being denied a diploma to appeal the decision to the board. The board would then have 45 days to take action on the appeal.
The board also set a special meeting June 5 to consider appeals.
Currently, the state Department of Education has alternative routes for students who can't pass the tests, including alternative tests, retesting or completion of a project that shows mastery in coursework, officials said.