Monday, June 4, 2012

Scope of ACE Graduation Requirement Appeals Process Explained

Oklahoma City - The State Board of Education will hold a special meeting tomorrow to hear recommendations from the State Department of Education on students requesting waivers from meeting Achieving Classroom Excellence requirements.
ACE sets forth requirements that must be met in order for a student to earn a diploma from an Oklahoma public high school. The 2012 senior class is the first required to meet the new standards. 
Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, authored an amendment to House Bill 2970 this past session that requires the State Board of Education to establish an appeals process for students who have been denied a standard diploma for failing to meet the ACE graduation requirements. Governor Mary Fallin signed the measure into law. It went into effect April 18. 
“Many of us in the Legislature believe it is important to provide an appeals process for students who spent 13 years in school and believe their failure to pass the required graduation exams are due to extreme circumstances,” said Nelson. “I appreciate the time and attention given by the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education on this issue.”
The State Department of Education has only received a few dozen applications for waivers so far. More are expected over the summer. HB2970 says that a student who has been denied a standard diploma shall have thirty days after denial to file a petition for an appeal to the Board.
“Quite frankly, I would expect very few waivers to be granted,” said Nelson. “The only guarantee in the amendment is the opportunity for students who don’t meet the standards and who are not granted a diploma to seek a waiver. Waivers should only be granted in extreme circumstances.”
Nelson said efforts by some in the Legislature to delay or roll back the ACE requirements were not successful but that there was strong bipartisan support for an appeals process requirement. 
“It would not be fair to the tens-of-thousands of students, teachers and administrators who worked extremely hard to meet the standards to have someone come along and tell them all that effort was for nothing,” said Nelson. “The students who met the standards should be proud of their accomplishment and we don’t want to take that away from them.”
HB2970 also requires the Board to collect data by school site and school district on the number of students petitioning for an appeal and the number of appeals approved by the Board.
“I’ve heard every reason imaginable to roll back the standards,” said Nelson. “Anecdotal information is important but that should not substitute for solid, complete data in defining the reasons standards are not being met by a small percentage of students. What is just as important as evaluating each student’s case is for the Board to gather information about the real causes of students’ inability to pass the required exams. This information is vital for law makers as they consider any potential changes to the ACE Standards. Right now we don’t have enough information to make intelligent changes to the standards.”
In 2005, when then Governor Brad Henry signed the ACE standards into law it was predicted that 22% of students would fail to meet the standards. Recent informal estimates indicate that by this past April more than 93% of this year’s senior class had met the standards. 
“I’ve heard some districts may seek waivers for their entire senior class,” said Nelson. “First, only students have the right to appeal - not school districts. Second, the State Board of Education was not given legal authority to grant any form of a general waiver. It would be irresponsible and outside the scope of the law for a school district to request a general waiver or for the State Board to roll back the requirements by granting blanket exceptions to the standards.” 

More information on ACE requirements:
Beginning with this year’s senior class, every student shall demonstrate mastery of the state academic content standards in order to graduate from a public high school with a standard diploma.
To demonstrate mastery in the subject areas listed below, all students must score Proficient or Advanced on the following End-of-Instruction (EOI) exams: Algebra I and English II; and two of the following five: Algebra II, Biology I, English III, Geometry and United State History.

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