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School Officials Still Hope For Delay, Yet Set To ACT

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School administrators are losing hope for a delay in implementing the ACT curriculum in Oklahoma high schools. The plan requires all students to take four years of English and three years each of math, science and social studies. Governor Keating vetoed a bill giving schools a year to gear up for the changes, and efforts to pass another delay in this week's special session are stalled.

Oklahoma high school freshmen enrolled this spring for the upcoming school year. They may have to pick new classes if the classes they chose don't meet requirements for the new ACT curriculum. School administrators are scrambling to get the program ready in the seven weeks before school starts. "We needed some time to react to this and get some parents and teachers involved. We learned about this after the session was over and it's going to be difficult from lots of standpoints," said Dr. Darrell Gwartney, superintendent of Catoosa Public Schools.

Gwartney warns schools will have to call staff back early to examine schedules, notify parents and prepare for needed reshuffling. New teachers may be needed while others may have to be re-certified. Schools also wonder how they'll pay for the new mandates. "If the money's not available next year when we have to put in the additional required technology lab, we're going to be really in sorry shape. It's that plain and simple," says Gwartney.

Educators went to the capitol this week to lobby lawmakers and Governor Keating for a delay. Gwartney says Keating's office politely told him to "go home and deal with the inconvenience." "I felt like that was at best a slap in the face about what we do," he said. He also predicts a huge outcry against the ACT curriculum once the general public understands other programs may be affected including athletics, music and art.

There's also the recurring argument that college track programs are not the best course for all students. Gwartney says the demand for immediate compliance was a surprise to lawmakers and educators alike. "We want real reform. But real money needs to go along with the reform along with some real planning and real time to get these things implemented," he said. School officials say Keating's expectations are unreal, but they can and will be met.
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