State will add tests to meet federal school requirements

Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2002

ANCHORAGE - Alaska's education officials will have to expand existing state tests or add new ones to meet federal education legislation signed by President Bush in December.

The new guidelines require states to give science exams at select grade levels and a high school test that gauges students' skill levels in reading and math.

Current exams now vary but all combine to track student progress year-to-year and to teach state standards in reading, writing and math.

The process begins in third grade. It ends when students pass the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam. Students graduating in 2004 or later must pass the test to get a diploma.

State education officials acknowledge that the number of required tests could be confusing for students and parents. But the regime is necessary, said Harry Gamble, spokesman with the state Department of Education and Early Development.

"It's so that every student leaves school with a high school diploma that means something," he said.

The current exams also provide ways for the state to track entire schools. The new federal guidelines add another layer.

Annual standardized reading and math tests are to be created for grades three through eight by fall 2005. Alaska already has those in place. Now, students in those grades take the national standardized TerraNova CAT 6 test, or the benchmark exam.

Science tests must be given during or between grades three and five, six and nine, and 10 and 12 by fall 2007.

States will have to produce at least one batch of math and reading scores from students at or between grades 10 and 12 by fall 2005. Alaska schools don't have a testing method to collect that data.

Sophomores now take the graduation exam, but results are reported as pass or fail. Federal guidelines seek to identify at what level a student is performing. That could mean creating a separate high school test, or adding more questions to the existing one, Gamble said.

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