Students survive day 1 of new test

About 460 Juneau high schoolers among those pioneering state's graduation exam

Posted: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

Juneau high school students, emerging from the gym after the first day of a new graduation qualifying exam, said it wasn't so bad after all.

``It wasn't too hard. It was basic stuff,'' student Bucky Lingle said Tuesday.

Roughly 460 sophomores in Juneau joined about 10,200 students statewide in taking the reading comprehension test Tuesday. They're being tested on writing today and math on Thursday.

The Class of 2002 is the first to have to pass the Alaska High School Qualifying Examination to get a diploma. Those who fail will get a certificate of attendance. Students may take the test twice a year for up to three years after leaving school.

Tuesday's test asked students to read essays or stories and answer multiple-choice questions about the meaning or why the author phrased it a certain way. In some questions, students had to provide written explanations.

``It was just long and a lot of reading,'' said student Jessica Hadfield.

The test doesn't have a time limit, but the vast majority of Juneau-Douglas High School students were done within three

hours. Tables of quiet students, heads bent down, filled the cavernous gym, while others took the test in the auditorium balcony or the library.

Student Meghan Salveson said she didn't have much anxiety about the test.

``Especially when you know how many chances you have to take it,'' Hadfield added.

Students won't know whether they passed until next fall. Committees of educators and citizens are expected to set the pass-fail mark this summer. In future years, results will be available within a couple of months.

Student Alan Floresca said Tuesday's test was moderately difficult.

``The school prepared us somewhat for what was going to be on the test. And some of it was common sense for some people,'' he said. ``In the beginning, I thought it was going to be really hard. But after a while, it just flows and you forget about your anxiety.''

Leslie Lozada and other students said it helped to take practice tests posted on the Internet by the state Department of Education, although some felt the practice tests were easier.

Bryce Lewis said he was among those students who went over what they got wrong on practice tests in class - like using incomplete sentences or run-on sentences.

He said he wasn't nervous when he woke up Tuesday, but by test time he had taken two Tums.

Students at Yaakoosge Daakahidi, the alternative high school program, took practice tests last week, said administrator Ronalda Cadiente. ``It helps students work through the anxious feelings they have about being evaluated.''

The Legislature mandated the high school test so a diploma would mean graduates met state standards in reading, writing and math.

``I think it's a good idea,'' student Lewis said. ``I don't like it because I don't like tests. (But) it's a reasonable thing they should do.''

Students in third, sixth and eighth grade also are taking statemandated benchmark tests this week in reading, writing and math. The results don't have the high stakes of the high school exam. But students were taking them seriously, Peggy Cowan, the school district's assessment director, told the Juneau School Board on Tuesday night.

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