Test score worries

Some local results show improvement, but state sees ethnic divide

Posted: Sunday, July 15, 2001

How did we do?

The following are the percentages of students in Juneau and statewide who passed the state benchmark tests given in spring 2001.


Reading: Juneau 78, state 71.

Writing: Juneau 60, state 54.

Math: Juneau 81, state 66.


Reading: Juneau 76, state 69.

Writing: Juneau 81, state 73.

Math: Juneau 76, state 63.


Reading: Juneau 89, state 83.

Writing: Juneau 79, state 68.

Math: Juneau 55, state 40.

Juneau elementary and middle school students performed a little better on state tests this year than last year. And they continue to pass the tests at a higher rate than the state average, recently released figures show.

Figures to compare Juneau-Douglas High School with the statewide average weren't immediately available.

But it's likely that Juneau's students at all levels will continue to share with the rest of the state a propensity for higher scores among whites than among Natives.

"The data I am releasing today will cause deep soul-searching in Alaska," Education Commissioner Shirley Holloway said Friday.

Students statewide made some progress this year, but there are significant disparities in achievement among ethnic groups and income levels, the state said.

"The analysis shows a deep divide in student achievement among ethnic groups. White students score much higher than other ethnic groups, much higher on average than Native Alaska students," Holloway said in a statement.

"Why is this so? What steps do we need to take to shrink this divide? It's time for debate. It's time to find out. It's time for action," she said.

Two-thirds of sophomores statewide passed the reading test this spring, down from three-quarters last spring. Only a third of low-income or Alaska Native students passed.

The statewide passing rate on the writing test stayed about the same, at a little less than half. Only about one in five low-income students or Natives passed.

Math scores improved. Forty-four percent of sophomores statewide passed the math test this spring, compared with 33 percent last spring. Again, only one in five low-income students or Natives passed.

Statewide, roughly 10,000 students took the tests at each grade they were given.

The state tests students in reading, writing and math in grades three, six, eight and initially in high school as sophomores. High school students who fail portions of the test - which will determine who gets a diploma starting with the Class of 2004 - can retake them for up to several years after leaving school.

Officials released the statewide averages for the tests taken in spring 2001, the second year for the tests. It didn't break down the results by school district, but the Juneau School District has released its results for grades three, six and eight. The school district doesn't have the high school results broken down by sophomores and juniors, as the state does, so the figures aren't comparable.

Although the tests are commonly referred to by the grade in which they're taken, they actually test what students of an earlier age range should know and be able to do.

The third-grade test measures standards for children age 5 to 7. The sixth-grade test measures standards for ages 8 to 11. And the eighth-grade test measures standards for kids 11 to 14.

Students in grades three, six and eight are judged as advanced, proficient, below proficient and not proficient. The state combines the first two categories to show what percentage of students are proficient. High school students either pass or fail their tests.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.

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