Sen. Gretchen Guess is right on! The entire exit exam concept should be revisited. I would take it one step further and say that exit exams are both unfair and unnecessary.
Our education system is already based on a perfect "exit exam" structure: Each time a student completes a course and passes the semester final a portion of the high school "exit exam" is completed. If a student cannot pass the final he or she should not receive a passing grade and should repeat the course until the subject matter is learned.
A student who has stayed in school and completed each required course with a passing grade should not be denied a diploma because of failure to pass a single exam. Pulling the rug out from under a student who passes all classes is a betrayal of a sacred covenant between a student and a school system whose promise has always been "If you pass all your classes you will receive a high school diploma."
If we have gotten to the point where students are passing classes without understanding the material, then exit exams are not the way to solve the problem. Instead we should be looking at standardized finals in required classes and a strict policy of not issuing passing grades to students who actually failing.
In our zealousness to maintain high standards, we sometimes forget that a large percentage of our young people do not go on to college. For many it is a great struggle just to make it through their senior year with passing grades. For those who will enter the job market at the bottom rung, their most valuable commodity will be a high school diploma. We cannot afford to view our high schools solely as college prep schools; we must make sure that students who hold up their end of the bargain receive that precious piece of paper.
And speaking of the students who are not college bound - those who will make up the bulk of our labor force - how about giving them better preparation for a productive life? Instead of putting millions into a second high school that offers the same curriculum as Juneau-Douglas High School, why not consider using those school bonds to build a smaller facility as an alternative high school with a focus on vocational training? Students could then opt to go to a school that prepares them for college or one that teaches them other skills. That would surely be a better use of the funds and would probably cut down on the dropout rate.
Phyllice Bradner Matson
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