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Originally posted June 1, 2012
Oklahoma's EOI testing blocks high school graduation, college scholarship; future in the balance
BY ANDREA EGER TulsaWorld Staff Writer
(Reprinted with Permission. This is not an endorsement.)
J.J. Lauck's father managed to survive a heart attack, a coma and inoperable cancer to see him walk across the stage at high school graduation last week. That's why Lauck can't bear to tell his father he didn't actually earn a diploma.
"I don't want it to be the death of him that he has to worry about his last kid," said Lauck, whose father was sent home from the hospital with a prognosis of two weeks to live just days before graduation.
The 18-year-old completed his senior year at Tulsa MET, an alternative school, despite being behind on credits at the beginning of the year and the terrible health crisis that struck his only immediate family member. Now he's among the 2,000 or so students who have been denied a high school diploma under Oklahoma's high-stakes testing law.
Glenda Ireton, a counselor at Tulsa MET, is hoping she can help persuade state education officials to grant Lauck a waiver from the Achieving Classroom Excellence Act because he lacks a passing grade on only the writing half of one English end-of-instruction exam.
"I don't know how much more we can put him through," Ireton said. "He has been willing to do everything we have asked him to do, but it is very difficult for him to concentrate.
"I don't know that we are getting a true indication of his writing. His time was limited because he attended Tulsa Technology Center half days and was working to support himself and his father, but he was committed to finishing his academic credits."
The state Board of Education has set a special meeting for Tuesday to hear the appeals of students such as Lauck who are seeking ACE waivers.
State leaders who support the new standards say they will make a high school diploma "mean something" once again. For Lauck, they may slam shut the doors to Tulsa Community College and end his dream of earning an engineering degree.
"He has received the Tulsa Achieves scholarship, but he will lose all of that if he can't get his diploma. He can keep taking the test, but the next one probably won't be until after the TCC deadline," Ireton said, shaking her head.
"I really feel it's been hard for him to concentrate, and this just causes him more stress during his father's last days."
Lauck is adamant that he's not seeking anyone's pity. He said he wants the powers that be to acknowledge the differences that exist in students' learning styles and personal circumstances.
"Not everyone is good at taking tests, and not everybody has the same reality going on. I've had more than that one thing - school - to focus on," he said. "I wrote it (the writing test) to the best I could, but I guess it wasn't good enough. It's their way or no way."
Lauck's father, Jimmy Lauck, has owned a flooring business for 24 years. Even though J.J. has worked with his father since he was 14, his father's long-term hospitalization put the burden of keeping the business going squarely on his young shoulders. His two sisters don't live here, and his brother and mother are no longer a part of the family's lives, he said.
"My dad always said there is no slacking - a person that slacks is a person with no goals. I didn't want to be the only one of his four kids to not graduate," he said.
"I told myself I have to push myself. My ultimate goal is to be the highest thing I can be in my career. I don't want to be the guy holding the ladder while everybody climbs up."
Two years in the drafting program at Tulsa Tech's Broken Arrow campus recently helped Lauck land a steady job at a Sand Springs company, Fiberglass Systems, that he hoped would help him support himself during college.
Luke Williams, the junior manufacturing engineer who hired Lauck, said he's already proven to be a self-starter in a few short weeks on the job.
"You can hand him something, and he just runs with it. He just gets the job done. It has been a positive experience so far," Williams said.
Still, the only person to whom Lauck wants to prove himself might not be around long enough to see his diploma - if he ever receives one.
"He's really out of it now. He sleeps all the time and is in a haze when he wakes up. I tried to brace myself that it might be sooner than later after graduation because that was the last thing he was wanting to see," Lauck said.
"That's the guy that taught me everything I know and who's always been there for me and led me down the path I'm going down."
Number of area students who haven’t met ACE requirements
Broken Arrow: 21
Jenks: 10 (mostly English language learners and special needs students)
Sand Springs: 7 (six are special needs students)
Tulsa: 148 to 158 students (doesn’t count written tests, such as English II or III and special needs students)
Union: 11 (three English language learners, three with special needs, eight who are economically disadvantaged and six who moved to Oklahoma this year*)
* Some categories may overlap