State's high schoolers take 1st graduation test

New tests disrupt flow of classes at schools across Alaska

Posted: Tuesday, March 07, 2000

ANCHORAGE - After two years of planning, some 10,200 Alaska 10th graders are pioneering state graduation exams today.

The tests, in reading, writing and math, continue through Thursday. Students have to pass all three to graduate with their class in 2002. Those who fail will have several opportunities to take the tests again.

About 32,000 students statewide in third, sixth and eighth grades also will take the benchmark tests today through Thursday to show progress toward meeting the new state academic standards.

For security reasons, students not in high school testing rooms at the beginning of the day won't be allowed to take the day's exam. They will have to wait until fall.

The logistics have turned some schools upside down.

``We made up a big class displacement chart,'' said Bartlett High School Principal Lewis Sears in Anchorage. For students not in testing, ``maybe you'll go to a different teacher. Maybe your same teacher will be someplace else.''

At Juneau-Douglas High School, students took seats in the gym, auditorium and library to take the test from 8 to 11 this morning.

The state requires certified teachers to proctor the tests, but the teachers cannot monitor sophomores they teach. The event is complicated by the fact that the tests are untimed. Students can take as long as they need to finish them.

Elementary and middle schools also will be disrupted, although not as much. Teachers in the lower grades will be allowed to monitor their own students as they administer tests. But since many classes mix grades, students not being tested will need a teacher of their own.

The state Department of Education worked two years to create the new standards and tests.

The high school exit test was adopted by the Legislature in 1997. Tests for the lower grades were part of a school funding bill in 1998.

The Alaska Board of Education established academic standards last year that are the basis of the testing. But the state won't set the passing score until this summer because this is the first set of tests, and the first group of test-takers will be used to determine the difficulty of each question.

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