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House passes bill to end high school exit exam

Posted: March 26, 2014 - 12:01am

JUNEAU — The Alaska House on Tuesday approved a repeal of the state high school graduation exam.

The vote was 32-5. The measure now goes to the Senate.

The exit exam tests student aptitude in reading, English and mathematics.

House Bill 220, sponsored by Rep. Pete Higgins, R-Fairbanks, terminates the exam as soon as the bill becomes law. It allows former students who earned enough high school credits to graduate to obtain their diploma even though they failed the exam.

Passage of the bill would save the state $2.7 million in administrative costs, Higgins said. The bill includes an outreach effort to former students who may request a high school diploma.

Several of the five Republicans who voted against the bill said there needs to be some sort of standard to measure learned skills.

“I think we need minimum standards.” Anchorage Rep. Bob Lynn said. “I think a high school diploma should mean something.”

The Parnell administration originally wanted a three-year transition to give former students who held letters of achievement but not diplomas the chance to go back and take the test. Students who earned enough credits to graduate from high school but failed the high school qualifying examination receive a letter of achievement.

The bill went through several versions.

“Everyone agrees the test should be ended,” Higgins told the House Finance Committee earlier in the month. “The trick has been in finding the off ramp.”

A deadline of June 30, 2017, for former students to request a high school diploma was removed from the bill.

High school seniors are under current law and will have to pass the test, Education Commissioner Mike Hanley said. The test is offered in October and April. But if the bill becomes law before the graduation date of high school classes, seniors will be eligible to receive diplomas without passing the exit exam.

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Dot Wilson
Dot Wilson 03/26/14 - 09:16 am
If they failed the exam

they really didn't learn anything, so why not just take all the requirements away and let them go to school only if they want to and when they want to. Give the money to the school system anyway then the teachers will not have to worry about teaching either. And, of course, a potential employer should have no expectations of someone who applies for a job. Just hire them if they can put an X on the line.

Maybe the SAT's should be banned too. No one needs to know that stuff. Just give them a college degree if they write a check for the credits that would be required if they actually learned anything.

Wayne Coogan
Wayne Coogan 03/26/14 - 09:58 am
"Everyone agrees the test

"Everyone agrees the test should be ended," Higgins told the House Finance Committee earlier in the month. This statement is untrue and it reveals arrogance in its purest form. Moreover, this topic is another exponent of the failed, bloated, bureaucracy otherwise known as the public education system. When the bureaucrats fail at their only modest measure of accountability they simply get their legislative cronies to remove it. However, the paychecks and retirement contributions keep flowing; its the way a socialist monopoly works. The solution is vouchers. Give parents the choice to find private schools that they can hold accountable.

Clay Good
Clay Good 03/26/14 - 02:10 pm
It's About Time

Any person who has ever taught in the classroom knows that tests are inherently limited.

In my 30 years of teaching, I can attest to the diversity of learners who may not perform well on tests, yet are highly intelligent and very good at learning in context.

While tests may be useful for diagnostic purposes, they are poor measures of the multiple intelligences and aptitudes that students possess.

Imagining that a one-size-fits-all test is the best way to understand student abilities is naive, ignorant or arrogant.

I wish we could have back the six days a year that are devoted just to the HSGQE. And that doesn't include MAPPS testing or any of the other tests to which we subject and anesthetize our naturally curious and excited learners.

Imagine all the positive learning opportunities lost as students cram into a gym for hours and days to try to understand and answer the questions posed by some person who thinks they know best what students need to know in order to be prepared for life in a rapidly changing world.

As a teacher, I want to know much more about my students than how good they are at taking tests.

Tests have their place. Unfortunately, simplistic thinkers value them too highly.

Dot Wilson
Dot Wilson 03/26/14 - 03:45 pm
Clay: I have

truly had employees who said they were a JDHS graduate who could not do simple math and years ago I quit expecting them to spell well or use proper grammar.

So should we assume everyone who can't spell or do math or read and understand a sentence are really just too intelligent to study and pass exams? There are a few like that I grant you, but remember, you teach the level of the majority of your students unless they are in a private school. There has to be a way to gauge what the majority of the students know and need to learn. How do you determine that without testing?

Clay Good
Clay Good 03/26/14 - 10:11 pm

Thanks for asking.

I've had students who couldn't write their name, not because of any sloth or lack of character on their part. But because their brain wiring was not like others.

Now imagine that such a student turns out to be an amazing successful professional artist - because their brain wiring was not like others.

I've know students for whom each day is a medicated nightmare just be able to attend and try to be normal. What if such a student turns out to have their own very successful business in the local tech sector - years before graduating?

I had a student confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak or move with coordination. But each day she would painstakingly program her voice synthesizer with the one question she wanted most to ask in class each day. Every day she made her voice heard.

I have hundreds of these stories, Dot. Students whose lives are so much more than any test will ever reveal. But we don't seem to have tests for what matters most.

At best, a test is a tool for teachers to use to better understand and teach each student. But personally, I think its a lousy yardstick for getting a high school diploma.

While employers are right to want skilled employees, those skills are changing fast and employers are going to need something more than high school test scores to make the right hire.

That's my $.02 for whatever it's worth.

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