An overlooked aspect of exit exam bills

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, January 25, 2004

The Juneau Empire recently ran an article on legislator proposals to amend Alaska's High School Exit Exam statute.

The article didn't address an important aspect of the bills by Senator Guess and Representatives Gara and Crawford.

Starting this year students who successfully pass 12 years of required coursework will also have to pass a standardized "exit exam."

Projections are that between 5 percent and 10 percent of seniors will not pass this exam, and will be denied diplomas.

Respected educators concede they've had a hard time developing a test that perfectly measures reading and math skills.

Therefore, some children who pass 12 years of required coursework and who can in fact read and write will fail the exam.

We should require students to take the exam and the courses aimed to help them pass it.

If they pass, the Guess, Gara and Crawford bills, among other things, would require the student's diploma or permanent record clearly say so.

Prospective employers and others will know if a graduate passed the standardized test, or whether they need to conduct a more detailed interview about the applicant's reading and math skills.

Many educators, including Anchorage School District's Carol Comeau, agree with this kind of approach.

We can achieve the goal of accountability and continue with standardized testing without failing students on the basis of a single test.

Cindy Smith

Legislative aide for Rep. Les Gara



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