Klawock considers alternative high school diploma

Posted: Thursday, May 18, 2000

Klawock School District officials are developing a new diploma program for students who fail the state's new graduation exam.

The district is developing the program in response to a state law requiring students to pass a competency test to receive a high school diploma, Klawock Superintendent Bob Robertson said. Klawock is on Southeast Alaska's Prince of Wales Island.

Under the state's program, students who do not pass the high school exit exam will receive a certificate of attendance.

``We do not want to give a certificate of attendance,'' Robertson told the Ketchikan Daily News. ``We are very concerned about everyone feeling successful.''

If the Klawock School Board approves, the district will offer students an opportunity instead to pursue a diploma of mastery in computers, carpentry, welding, auto mechanics, forestry, marine biology, business management, tourism, arts or early education, Robertson said.

Bruce Johnson, state Department of Education deputy commissioner, said districts will be prohibited from awarding students anything called a diploma if they do not pass the exit exam when the new law takes effect for the class of 2002.

Johnson said the department has received the most comment on diploma alternatives from families of children with disabilities who are working up to their capacities but still falling short of the graduation requirement.

``We believe the law allows that,'' he said. ``It just cannot be called a high school diploma.''

Rep. Con Bunde sponsored the 1997 legislation that set up the qualifying exams. Like the governor's call this year for more money to help students meet the standard, Bunde said the call for alternative achievement certificates is premature.

``I'd like to see people have a little more confidence in our high school students,'' the Anchorage Republican said.

Robertson said Klawock students who pass the high school competency exam may pursue both a diploma of mastery and a state diploma. He said his district is concerned the certificate of attendance will negatively affect students' self-esteem.

``We can't have a greater division of the haves and the have-nots,'' he said.

The district, he said, plans to de-emphasize the different program tracks at graduation, adding that staff will work to ensure that all students are respected and feel they have really accomplished something by graduation time.

The district still expects most students to pass the state exam, Robertson said.

``We're going to strive to be the best in the state,'' he said.

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