Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/09/2010 03:30 PM Senate COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS

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03:31:47 PM Start
03:32:30 PM Presentation on Fairbanks Lbc Annexation
04:32:41 PM SB109
05:10:29 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Presentation on the Fairbanks TELECONFERENCED
Annexation Local Boundary Commission
Decision Case
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
Heard & Held
            SB 109-REPEAL SECONDARY SCHOOL EXIT EXAM                                                                        
4:32:41 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR OLSON  said the next order  of business to come  before the                                                               
committee was SB 109.                                                                                                           
TOM  OBERMEYER,  aide to  Senator  Davis,  said the  High  School                                                               
Graduation Qualifying Exam (HSGQE) was  initiated in 2001 and was                                                               
fully implemented  in 2004. He said  it has become a  high stakes                                                               
hurdle  that in  many views  has harmed  many students  in Alaska                                                               
while  exacerbating the  2007 court  finding that  the state  was                                                               
violating  students'   constitutional  rights  to   an  education                                                               
without providing  proper assistance and  direction, particularly                                                               
in rural districts. He said it  may be argued that the state does                                                               
not  need the  HSGQE  and all  school  districts already  require                                                               
assessment tests  to determine  student progress  and competency.                                                               
The Center on Education Policy  reported in August 2008 that most                                                               
states  have alternatives  to  the high  risk  exam. The  current                                                               
Alaska high  school exam  was changed by  the Board  of Education                                                               
and made a  little less difficult at the inception  and has since                                                               
been combined with the No Child Left Behind test.                                                                               
He pointed out that the  test represents a substantial expense at                                                               
about $1.5 million per year as  part of a $48 million, seven-year                                                               
annual  renewable  contract  with  Data  Recognition  Corporation                                                               
(DRC).  He said  whether or  not the  test is  doing what  it was                                                               
intended to  do is questionable.  Nothing has indicated  that the                                                               
test has better  prepared students for college  or has determined                                                               
conclusively that  students were  receiving diplomas  but lacking                                                               
basic skills. He  explained that many students who  fail the test                                                               
are dropping  out of school  or ending  up with a  Certificate of                                                               
Attendance which  has no value in  the job market. It  is time to                                                               
review the exam and  see if it is time to  eliminate it. He noted                                                               
that the  Department [of Education  and Early  Development] (EED)                                                               
and the Board [of Education] have taken a contrary opinion.                                                                     
SENATOR MENARD asked  if $1.5 per year is the  cost to administer                                                               
the test.                                                                                                                       
4:36:54 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. OBERMEYER replied yes, the average is about $1.5 million.                                                                   
SENATOR MENARD said Terra Nova is  the test that many are wishing                                                               
to go  to. She asked  what the cost  would be to  administer that                                                               
SENATOR DAVIS said SB 109 only  repeals the HSGQE and she was not                                                               
able to provide that information.  She  said it was up to the EED                                                               
and Board of Education to decide if Terra Nova would be used.                                                                   
SENATOR  MENARD said  she knows  about  the Terra  Nova test  and                                                               
should have  asked how much  less the cost of  administering this                                                               
test would be.                                                                                                                  
SENATOR  THOMAS  commented that  any  test  does not  necessarily                                                               
create change,  but rather  what results from  the test,  such as                                                               
earlier  intervention, creates  change.  He  commented that  some                                                               
people say  earlier intervention,  according to tests  already in                                                               
place, will  have a  better outcome than  waiting until  the 10th                                                               
grade to take a test with a large impact.                                                                                       
SENATOR DAVIS said she is  not recommending anything; that SB 109                                                               
is  to  repeal the  HSGQE.  She  mentioned  that some  tools  are                                                               
already in  place for assessments  and testing in  earlier grades                                                               
and the EED has  to decide what else to do.  She pointed out that                                                               
WorkKeys is  supposed to go  into effect  next year and  said she                                                               
does  believe pre-K  education is  important. She  said a  system                                                               
that gives a test at grade 10,  with three years to pass, or else                                                               
a piece of paper to say  the student attended, is a disservice to                                                               
children and needs to be looked at and replaced.                                                                                
SENATOR MENARD  said she has  heard the MatSu school  district is                                                               
not opposed to  SB 109 and asked if Senator  Davis has heard from                                                               
other districts.                                                                                                                
SENATOR DAVIS  said she  has heard  from a  lot of  districts and                                                               
that the  committee packets contain  some of the  information and                                                               
more will come from public testimony.                                                                                           
4:40:46 PM                                                                                                                    
DOUG  CONBOY,  Superintendent   of  Schools,  Kashunamiut  School                                                               
District in Chevak, said Kashunamiut  School District supports SB
109.  He said  several  aspects of  standardized  testing have  a                                                               
negative effect on his district's  students, which are 98 percent                                                               
Cup'ik. Students in  Chevak do not understand some  terms used in                                                               
testing  such  as  "curb;"  there  are no  curbs  in  Chevak  and                                                               
students  do not  know  what a  curb is.  Students  don't have  a                                                               
concept  of the  term  "park" as  there are  none  in Chevak.  He                                                               
provided  an example  of  a multiple  choice  question about  the                                                               
appropriate  means   of  transportation   to  a  hospital   -  an                                                               
automobile,  public transport  or  an  airplane. Chevak  students                                                               
correctly answered "airplane"  which was counted as  wrong in the                                                               
standardization  process. He  did  not  believe any  standardized                                                               
test  can  be detailed  enough  to  consider  the wide  range  of                                                               
[students'] experiences. He  cautioned against substituting HSGQE                                                               
with something else because one size does not fit all.                                                                          
SENATOR THOMAS  said he has  been told assistance is  allowed for                                                               
some people and asked if assistance aids Mr. Conboy's students.                                                                 
MR.  CONBOY  replied that  too  much  dialogue with  the  student                                                               
compromises the test; means of  assisting a student with the test                                                               
are quite limited.                                                                                                              
SENATOR THOMAS  asked if other  tests already in place  should be                                                               
able to trigger  remediation and getting kids to  the point where                                                               
they are able to go on to vocations or college.                                                                                 
MR. CONBOY  said he believes so.  He said teachers who  work with                                                               
students daily  and have a relationship  with them are up  to the                                                               
task  of remediating  those issues.  The student  must also  have                                                               
some ownership as well; a student  who is oppositional is hard to                                                               
turn around.                                                                                                                    
4:44:56 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KOOKESH  said he thinks that  the end result of  the test                                                               
is the  worst part  of it. He  has seen kids  in his  village who                                                               
don't pass  the HSGQE and  get a Certificate of  Attendance which                                                               
effectively  ends their  life because  the student  cannot go  to                                                               
vocational  schools,  college,  into the  military  and  possibly                                                               
can't join some unions without  a high school diploma. He thought                                                               
we need to find  a way to get kids a high  school diploma yet the                                                               
HSGQE is stopping them from doing so.                                                                                           
MR.  CONBOY  agreed and  apologized  if  his testimony  gave  any                                                               
indication that he did not agree.                                                                                               
SENATOR KOOKESH said  he just wanted to go to  the next step: not                                                               
only is  the test something  he does not  agree with but  he also                                                               
does not agree with the end result.                                                                                             
MR. CONBOY  said a  double standard exists:  a student  who meets                                                               
the requirements for graduation as  set forth by the local school                                                               
board and district,  but does not pass the HSGQE,  is not allowed                                                               
to graduate.  Other students  pass the HSGQE  but don't  have all                                                               
the needed credits and so cannot  graduate. He does not believe a                                                               
"double shot" at the students is the right way to do business.                                                                  
4:46:23 PM                                                                                                                    
BENJAMIN  AGIMUK,  student  at  Kashunamiut  School  District  in                                                               
Chevak, supported  SB 109. He  said some  kids do well  in school                                                               
but get  very nervous about these  big tests and their  brains do                                                               
not function  right. He  said students  who get  A's and  B's but                                                               
don't pass  the test,  even after  the retakes,  are not  able to                                                               
graduate. He expressed  the opinion that this is  unfair. He said                                                               
he knows  at least  one student  exists in  every village  who is                                                               
smart enough  but cannot pass  the HSGQE  test because he  or she                                                               
gets nervous.  He believes these  kids can  get a diploma  but do                                                               
not because of  the HSGQE test; they will only  get a Certificate                                                               
of Attendance  even though they  have A's  and B's. He  said that                                                               
person is being left behind.                                                                                                    
CHAIR OLSON asked Mr. Agimuk what grade he is in.                                                                               
MR. AGIMUK replied 10th grade.                                                                                                  
CHAIR OLSON asked if Mr. Agimuk had taken the HSGQE.                                                                            
MR. AGIMUK replied no.                                                                                                          
SENATOR KOOKESH asked  if Mr. Agimuk is saying that  a person can                                                               
go through high  school, get all A's and B's,  and then be failed                                                               
by one  exam at  the end. He  asked if Mr.  Agimuk did  not agree                                                               
with that.                                                                                                                      
MR. AGIMUK said he does not  agree with that because students can                                                               
get  really nervous  and their  brains don't  function right.  He                                                               
said it is certainly unfair for  the student. He pointed out that                                                               
those students  will not  be able  to get  scholarships or  go on                                                               
with school even though they had good enough grades.                                                                            
SENATOR MENARD complimented Mr. Agimuk on his testimony.                                                                        
SENATOR THOMAS asked if Mr. Agimuk is a good student.                                                                           
MR. AGIMUK replied yes.                                                                                                         
SENATOR THOMAS  asked Mr.  Agimuk if  he anticipates  passing the                                                               
MR. AGIMUK replied, "Hopefully."                                                                                                
CHAIR OLSON asked  what Mr. Agimuk would like to  be when he gets                                                               
out of school.                                                                                                                  
MR. AGIMUK replied that he would like to be like Senator Olson.                                                                 
4:50:01 PM                                                                                                                    
JOHN  ALCANTRA,   Director  of  Government   Relations,  National                                                               
Education  Association  -  Alaska  (NEA), supported  SB  109.  He                                                               
mentioned the savings  of $1.3 to $1.6 million per  year as shown                                                               
on the  fiscal note for SB  109. He suggested more  savings would                                                               
be  made through  children not  missing instruction  in order  to                                                               
take the HSGQE. He recounted that  some students pass the test in                                                               
their sophomore year  and tell their parents they  are "done with                                                               
high school." He mentioned a  letter in the committee packet from                                                               
LaDawn  Truce,   president  of  the  Kenai   Peninsula  Education                                                               
Association, which provides an eloquent  description of the flaws                                                               
of the exit exam other than the cost.                                                                                           
SENATOR THOMAS  said we do a  lot of testing all  through school.                                                               
He asked  Mr. Alcantra if he  thinks the HSGQE is  being unfairly                                                               
judged and if standards will be  lowered if the test is done away                                                               
MR. ALCANTRA  said he did  not believe repealing the  HSGQE would                                                               
be lowering  standards because the  test is a minimum  bench mark                                                               
anyway. He  felt that current testing  from 3rd to 10th  grade is                                                               
adequate. He  pointed out that  good students and  smart children                                                               
have "a blip in difficulty" in  passing a test. He said plenty of                                                               
assessment  tools are  available and  the  EED and  the Board  of                                                               
Education will come up with some alternatives.                                                                                  
4:53:28 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  OLSON   said  people  in   the  business   community  have                                                               
complained   for  years   about  high   school  graduates   being                                                               
inadequately  prepared  for  the   job  market,  particularly  in                                                               
mathematics.  He  asked what  Mr.  Alcantra  would say  to  these                                                               
business community members.                                                                                                     
MR.  ALCANTRA  said quality  teachers  in  every classroom  would                                                               
allow  these kids  to get  the best  education possible.  He said                                                               
asking village kids about curbs  and paved streets isn't going to                                                               
help them do better math for  a workplace. He said this exit exam                                                               
is  keeping hundreds  of kids  from getting  a diploma  and being                                                               
able to move forward and  better their lives. At every crossroad,                                                               
parents and  teachers can do  a better  job at making  sure their                                                               
children do  better in  math and  every subject.  Eliminating the                                                               
HSGQE  will not  keep kids  from getting  the best  math or  high                                                               
school experience possible.                                                                                                     
SENATOR KOOKESH  recounted that  he worried  for years  about his                                                               
younger brother who  did not do well in school.  His brother went                                                               
into the military,  spent time in Vietnam, came back  and went to                                                               
college and  got a Masters  Degree. If an  exam was in  place, he                                                               
would not have gotten a diploma and never would have "made it."                                                                 
MR. ALCANTRA said  the letter from LaDawn Druce is  about her son                                                               
who went  to a post-secondary  vocational educational  program in                                                               
Oklahoma. He  had not passed the  HSGQE. He came back  and passed                                                               
it  55  points above  the  cut  score  two  years later.  He  was                                                               
employed at  an Anchorage automotive  dealership within  48 hours                                                               
of  returning to  Alaska and  has worked  his way  up to  service                                                               
advisor.  Mr.  Alcantra  said  failing  the  HSGQE  can  prohibit                                                               
getting  into   the  military   and  most   union  apprenticeship                                                               
programs; it is hurting Alaska's kids.                                                                                          
4:57:01 PM                                                                                                                    
LES MORSE,  Deputy Commissioner,  Alaska Department  of Education                                                               
and Early Development  (DEED), said the state  Board of Education                                                               
decided it was not wise to move  away from this test at this time                                                               
and felt it  was an important part of  the accountability system.                                                               
The Board of  Education adopted a resolution in  opposition to SB
109.  He  mentioned data  showing  the  number of  graduates  has                                                               
increased  while  dropouts  have  decreased since  the  exam  was                                                               
implemented. The data suggests that the exam might be working.                                                                  
CHAIR OLSON  asked if  it is correct  that the  Administration is                                                               
not in support of SB 109.                                                                                                       
MR. MORSE replied that was accurate.                                                                                            
SENATOR KOOKESH said he did not know that was accurate.                                                                         
MR. MORSE  clarified that the  Governor's office has not  taken a                                                               
position. The DEED is bringing  forward the position of the state                                                               
Board of Education.                                                                                                             
SENATOR  KOOKESH asked  how  many students  in  Alaska receive  a                                                               
Certificate of Attendance.  He said the number  of graduates will                                                               
naturally  increase because  the population  is growing.  He said                                                               
fewer  dropouts might  occur when  students stay  in school  even                                                               
with a Certificate of Attendance  because they don't realize what                                                               
the certificate is as compared to a diploma.                                                                                    
MR. MORSE said  the percent of graduates has  increased, not just                                                               
the number  of graduates.  The total  number graduates  went from                                                               
6905 to  8008 last  year; the percentage  of the  population went                                                               
from 61.4  to 67.5  percent. In  2009, the  numbers are  based on                                                               
11,863  students  of which  8,008  graduated  and 2,311  did  not                                                               
graduate. Of those  2,311, 1,549 students passed  all three parts                                                               
of the exam  so they did not graduate for  some other reason. 762                                                               
students did not pass one or  more parts of the exam and received                                                               
a Certificate of Attendance.                                                                                                    
5:00:50 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  OLSON asked  if Mr.  Morse agreed  that students  in rural                                                               
Alaska  are  at a  disadvantage  because  they  do not  have  the                                                               
vernacular  of  those  raised  in  a city.  He  asked  why  rural                                                               
students  should be  penalized by  a test  that is  biased toward                                                               
urban students.                                                                                                                 
MR. MORSE  said he  would be  surprised if  a question  with that                                                               
level  of  bias  was  on  the  test. He  said  he  will  ask  the                                                               
contractor  if any  question  like that  [about  a curb]  exists.                                                               
Every item  on custom-made tests,  including the  standards based                                                               
exams  and  HSGQE, is  reviewed  for  bias  by a  committee  with                                                               
representation from all over Alaska.  He said, it would be highly                                                               
unlikely  that  question would  be  on  the  test at  that  grade                                                               
because of extensive reviews for bias.                                                                                          
CHAIR  OLSON referred  to  his experience  of  having flown  many                                                               
Medivacs in rural  and Western Alaska, and said a  student who is                                                               
asked how  grandma will get  to the hospital  will not say  in an                                                               
automobile. He said  he has not seen the test  but stated that if                                                               
such  a question  is on  the test,  something is  certainly wrong                                                               
with the test.                                                                                                                  
MR. MORSE  said he agreed  and was  almost 100 percent  sure that                                                               
question is  not on the test;  it would not have  passed the bias                                                               
committee who would have said two correct answers are possible.                                                                 
CHAIR OLSON asked  Mr. Morse to get back to  him about whether or                                                               
not that question is on the test.                                                                                               
5:02:55 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KOOKESH  said he is  concerned about DEED  not supporting                                                               
SB  109 at  all without  talking to  people, like  the testifiers                                                               
today, or  members of the  Legislature, such as himself,  who are                                                               
opposed to the test.   He said he expects DEED  to lead, not keep                                                               
the status  quo. He  said he  wants to hear  the DEED  say, "this                                                               
test may not  work, so we are going to  make modifications to it;                                                               
we're going to make  it work." He said the DEED  needs to look at                                                               
the fact that SB 109 is in  front of the Legislature and there is                                                               
a concern.                                                                                                                      
MR. MORSE said  he would not say no problems  exist with the exam                                                               
and noted  that adjustments have been  made. He said next  week a                                                               
meeting will  be held to  review standards, poll people  who have                                                               
worked  on  the high  school  portion  and conduct  consequential                                                               
validity studies  to learn the impact  of the exam in  the field.                                                               
He  said such  things are  continuously  looked at.  He said  the                                                               
Board  of Education  and DEED  think  the HSGQE  fulfills a  very                                                               
important purpose  in the accountability  system. The HSGQE  is a                                                               
major  driving force  in comprehensive  high  schools that  don't                                                               
fall under the No Child Left Behind accountability.                                                                             
5:05:06 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KOOKESH  said he would  be comfortable if DEED  would say                                                               
the HSGQE would  be kept as a  measuring tool and as  part of the                                                               
graduation process.   He does  not want  to get the  message that                                                               
the DEED doesn't care how a  student does in school but will deny                                                               
a diploma for a student who fails the test.                                                                                     
SENATOR  MENARD   said  that  Alaska   school  board   [Board  of                                                               
Education]  is  often at  odds  with  the Alaska  Association  of                                                               
School Boards. She  would like DEED Commissioner,  Mr. LeDoux, to                                                               
come  and speak  because she  is getting  conflicting information                                                               
that he may weigh in on getting rid of the HSGQE.                                                                               
MR. MORSE said the Commissioner would make himself available.                                                                   
5:06:59 PM                                                                                                                    
BENJAMIN ANDERSON AGIMUK, student  at Kashunamiut School District                                                               
in   Chevak,  supported   SB  109   for   cultural  reasons   and                                                               
psychological reasons already stated.  He said he has intelligent                                                               
friends who do not pass the  test, are discouraged by the results                                                               
and are  not willing  to continue  in school.  He said  these are                                                               
people  who  would probably  go  through  vocational school  more                                                               
quickly than other people. They  are crippled because they cannot                                                               
pass a  test that  was not  designed for  them, even  though they                                                               
would be  successful people.   He said  he was going  to describe                                                               
cultural reasons as well but those have already been said.                                                                      
CHAIR OLSON asked what grade Mr. Anderson Agimuk is in.                                                                         
MR. ANDERSON AGIMUK replied 11th.                                                                                               
CHAIR OLSON asked if he had taken the HSGQE.                                                                                    
MR. ANDERSON AGIMUK replied yes.                                                                                                
CHAIR OLSON asked if he passed.                                                                                                 
MR. ANDERSON AGIMUK replied yes.                                                                                                
SENATOR  KOOKESH  asked  if  he was  concerned  about  the  other                                                               
students who  may end up  being penalized because they  would not                                                               
get a diploma and would not be able  to continue on in life to do                                                               
other things.                                                                                                                   
MR. ANDERSON AGIMUK replied yes. He  said the people he knows are                                                               
pretty smart  and do well  in school. He  said they do  better in                                                               
technical  classes and  would  be successful.  He  said they  are                                                               
being crippled by the test  and mentally discouraged to the point                                                               
of not feeling like going forward in school.                                                                                    
5:10:10 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  OLSON  closed   public  testimony  and  held   SB  109  in                                                               
5:10:29 PM                                                                                                                    
With  no  further  business before  the  committee,  Chair  Olson                                                               
adjourned the meeting.                                                                                                          

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