Don't ease up on tests because of bad scores

Posted: Sunday, June 25, 2000

The scores are in and the results are nothing to cheer about.

Two-thirds of all sophomores in the state failed the mathematics portion of a new graduation qualifying exam; only half passed the writing test. The only bright spot was that at least three-quarters passed the reading section.

What does this say about the state's educational system? It seems the tests speak for themselves.

Juneau School Board member Alan Schorr, in an interview with the Empire last week, put it best: ``Maybe this is a wake-up call to boards, teachers, parents that we're talking about a dramatic change needed to get kids to pass this exam.''

The tests are part of a new program, known as the Alaska High School Qualifying Examination, which requires students to pass tests in reading, writing and mathematics in order to get a high school diploma. Those who fail the tests will receive a certificate of attendance.

Already there's talk about lowering the passing levels for current students. The idea is that school systems will have to rethink their course programs to ensure more students pass the tests and that will take time to develop. Future students would then have to meet the higher standards.

We don't like that idea. As an educational system, the state has failed to properly train and educate students. But we can't simply say that Johnny doesn't have to know as much because we didn't do our job. Employers expect certain educational standards and it is paramount that we as state improve immediately our teaching methods.

Simply lowering the score needed to pass doesn't help anyone.

Instead, we should look at these scores as an opportunity. We need to focus on core subjects - reading, writing and arithmetic - that everyone needs regardless of the field they chose to go into.

It may take more money, as Education Commissioner Rick Cross said last week. Fine, shouldn't a top-notch education of our children be one of the top priorities of any state?

We still have time. Change the curriculum if needed and let's focus on what students need in the real world.

Let's take it as a challenge. Why shouldn't we have the best-educated students in the country? Why shouldn't a high school diploma from the state of Alaska be on the same par - and be recognized with the same respect - as an Ivy League or any other top college diploma?

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