Law honors outstanding graduates

Legislation to reward and recognize outstanding high school graduates has now been signed into law.

Gov. Mary Fallin added her signature to Senate Bill 929.  Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, is principal Senate author of the bill, and Rep. Justin Wood, R-Shawnee, is principal House author.  The measure creates the 2016 Workforce Oklahoma Academic High School Diploma Recognition Act.

Beginning with the 2020-21 school year, school districts can recognize on standard diplomas for students who have met academic excellence if a district chooses to do so. The recognition may also be included on the student’s high school transcript.  Sharp explained the three-tiered diploma places emphasis on academic performance where it belongs – on the student.

“I firmly believe students today are just as motivated as ever. All that is necessary is to create a competitive environment.  That’s exactly what this bill is all about,” Sharp said.

SB 929 creates competition and rewards students for academic performance. It also encourages students to take Advanced Placement courses, concurrent college courses, and Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) courses at career technical schools.

“Students who enroll in career tech STEM courses are also recognized for academic excellence. This has not been a prerequisite and these students should not lose academic recognition for their career path in a STEM related field,” said Sharp, a classroom teacher for 38 years.

The three-tiered diplomas include:

  • “Recognition of Highest Academic Distinction.” Students who achieve a cumulative high school GPA of 3.75 or higher on a 4.0 scale for all coursework performed in their career pathway and meeting state recognized college entrance at their time of graduation.
  • “Recognition of Academic Honors.” Students who achieve a cumulative high school GPA of 3.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale for all coursework performed in their career pathway of choice and meeting state recognized college entrance requirements at the time of graduation.
  • “Recognition of Academic Merit.” Students who achieve a cumulative high school GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale for all coursework performed in their career pathway of choice and meeting state recognized college entrance requirements at the time of graduation.

The career pathway courses require at least six credits within a career pathway and including AP courses, career and technical science classes, STEM courses, college concurrent enrollment courses, or a combination of such courses that best prepare students for work or further study in a career pathway of their choice.

“In my experience as a public school teacher, I’ve learned that if the student is motivated to excel, the teacher is motivated to raise their teaching level,” Sharp said.  “It’s a mutually beneficial dynamic that ultimately can improve the overall quality of our schools.”