Tests are rough, but the right thing to do

Posted: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

That collective ``ugh'' you hear is coming from more than 10,000 Alaska high school sophomores taking up their No. 2 pencils, waiting to be told to open their booklets, and start taking the state's first required graduation exams.

It's now the second day of a three-day blitz of tests to ensure Johnny can read and write. Students must pass three tests - reading, writing and mathematics - in order to graduate with their class in 2002. On top of that, roughly 32,000 students in grades three, six and eight are taking similar tests over the next three days.

The high school exit test was adopted back in 1997 by the Legislature. The similar tests for the elementary and middle schools were added in 1998 as part of a school funding bill.

Now, no one likes tests. Some don't like them because, well, they're tests. Others argue tests aren't always a fair indicator of one's ability - that some kids just don't ``test well.''

We, however, support these exit exams. As taxpayers funding public schools, we have every right to know if our students are learning. And more importantly, we have every right to ensure our tax-funded schools are preparing students for the real world and future jobs, where basic reading, writing and math - regardless of one's profession - are needed.

It's the first year for the exams and there's sure to be some glitches. Classrooms are being disrupted as those taking the exams are grouped together. Teachers are being reassigned because only certified teachers can proctor the tests and teachers can't monitor sophomores they teach.

Some are complaining because there's no time limit; while others are upset no passing score has been determined. That passing grade will be set this summer and this first group of students will be used to judge the difficulty of the exam.

These are all legitimate concerns, but the goal outweighs these problems - and that's to ensure our kids have learned. It also is an opportunity for parents and teachers to see where kids need help.

For those with ``test anxiety,'' the law allows students to retake the test several times and we think that's a fair opportunity.

As we said, no one really likes tests. But if we view these as a chance to improve our school systems, then we're all for it.

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