Effort to improve high-school outcomes clears House

March 22, 2023

Ray Carter

An effort to boost Oklahoma’s academic outcomes by requiring schools to provide more support to high-school students who do not meet career-and-college readiness benchmarks has gained approval from the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

“I think there’s a lot of kids in the state of Oklahoma that are not graduating from high school and are not proficient on the ACT and have not demonstrated a way to show workplace acumen,” said state Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, an Elgin Republican and former teacher. “Yes, I think it is a problem. It’s a problem in every state in the union right now, post-COVID era.”

House Bill 1770, by Hasenbeck, requires Oklahoma schools to provide academic support for high-school juniors and seniors who score below the benchmarks on the American College Testing (ACT) exam or equivalent scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).

The ACT benchmarks are the “minimum ACT college readiness assessment scores required for students to have a high probability of success in credit-bearing college courses.” A perfect score on the ACT is a 36. The 2022 benchmarks for each of the components of the ACT test are an 18 in English, a 22 in reading, a 22 in mathematics, and a 23 in science.

The average Oklahoma student failed to meet any of those four benchmarks in 2022.

In 2022, the average ACT score of an Oklahoma student in each of those areas were as follows: 17 in English, 18.6 in reading, 17.3 in math, and 18.2 in science.

“We’re using the ACT as a measure because it has such a vast history, and there is so much data attached to this assessment that some pretty good predictions can be made based on a student’s performance on that instrument,” Hasenbeck said. “Not just me—educational scholars look at the ACT as a valuable instrument.”

The academic support required under the bill could take several forms, including extended instructional time during the school day, a summer academy, tutoring, online coursework, and repetition of any course in which the student has demonstrated academic deficiency.

The legislation would take effect beginning in the 2028-2029 school year, meaning children who are in the sixth grade next year would be the first provided the additional support as high-school juniors or seniors.

State Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman, objected to the bill, comparing academic-support efforts to recess in elementary school.

“You know I’ve been trying to do something with recess, trying to require recess within the day, and I keep being told that there’s just not enough time in the day to do that,” Rosecrants said. “So my question to you is, are we going to lengthen the day? How are we going to make sure that we have time for this remediation.”

Hasenbeck said any additional effort is worth it.

“For every student who does not graduate from high school in the state of Oklahoma, that is a problem for every single Oklahoman,” Hasenbeck said.

HB 1770 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 77-16 vote. The bill now proceeds to the Oklahoma Senate.