Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/16/2010 03:30 PM Senate COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Moved SB 109 Out of Committee
            SB 109-REPEAL SECONDARY SCHOOL EXIT EXAM                                                                        
3:53:43 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR OLSON  said the next order  of business to come  before the                                                               
committee was SB 109. He opened public testimony.                                                                               
LADAWN  DRUCE,   President  of  the  Kenai   Peninsula  Education                                                               
Association, Kenai, testified in support  of SB 109. She said she                                                               
was  a counselor  and  English teacher  at  Soldotna High  School                                                               
before  becoming president  of the  Teacher's Association  on the                                                               
Kenai  and has  experienced  the High  School General  Qualifying                                                               
Examination (HSGQE) as  a parent of a child who  did not pass, an                                                               
English teacher, a high school  counselor and a test coordinator.                                                               
She  said  the HSGQE  uses  valuable  instructional time  and  is                                                               
problematic for  three groups  of students:  students who  do not                                                               
perform  well  in  testing situations,  English  Second  Language                                                               
(ESL) students and  special needs students. She  pointed out that                                                               
some  special needs  students  are  provided with  accommodations                                                               
that  enable  them to  pass  the  test  though their  skills  and                                                               
abilities are far  below students who struggle with  the test but                                                               
are  not given  the same  accommodations. She  felt this  negated                                                               
whatever the HSGQE purports to measure.                                                                                         
She said the HSGQE does  not measure mastery of content, literacy                                                               
or competency  but rather  measures high-stakes  testing ability.                                                               
No single test should keep  students from receiving a high school                                                               
diploma. She  suggested that a  more authentic  skills assessment                                                               
would help  guide students, parents, teachers  and counselors and                                                               
would  restore   dignity  and  integrity   to  the   high  school                                                               
graduation process.                                                                                                             
3:56:23 PM                                                                                                                    
REBECCA  LOGAN,  President  and   CEO,  Associated  Builders  and                                                               
Contractors of Alaska  (ABC), spoke in opposition to  SB 109 from                                                               
the  perspective  of a  trade  association  running a  registered                                                               
apprenticeship  program.  She  said 900-1200  students  apply  to                                                               
ABC's  apprenticeship  program  every   year  and  a  significant                                                               
difference exists between those who  have a diploma and those who                                                               
have  a General  Education Development  (GED). Eighty  percent of                                                               
students with  a diploma meet the  apprenticeship program's basic                                                               
math requirement while  less than 30 percent of those  with a GED                                                               
do.  She felt  the HSGQE  is  the most  significant tool  leading                                                               
students  to  pursue  a  diploma.  She  spoke  in  opposition  to                                                               
removing the HSGQE until a replacement exam is in place.                                                                        
SENATOR THOMAS asked  if Ms. Logan knew how many  students with a                                                               
GED had passed the HSGQE.                                                                                                       
MS.  LOGAN replied  that  ABC  only keeps  track  of whether  the                                                               
applicant has a GED or diploma.                                                                                                 
CHAIR  OLSON  asked  if  Ms.   Logan's  opinion  of  SB  109  was                                                               
reflective of the business community in general.                                                                                
MS.  LOGAN said  she  could  not speak  for  the entire  business                                                               
community  but  she  knows that  employers  in  the  construction                                                               
industry appreciate the HSGQE and  feel it guarantees a student's                                                               
basic skills.                                                                                                                   
CHAIR OLSON  asked what  ABC's plans are  for students  who don't                                                               
meet   the   requirements   or  are   not   accepted   into   the                                                               
apprenticeship program.                                                                                                         
MS. LOGAN responded that someone  from the program meets with the                                                               
individual  and  indentifies  the  skill  or  education  that  is                                                               
lacking.  She  explained  that several  different  resources  are                                                               
available, such as taking math or reading classes.                                                                              
3:59:51 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR OLSON asked who pays for that.                                                                                            
MS.  LOGAN replied  that the  Department of  Labor and  Workforce                                                               
Development (DOLWD)  supports several programs at  no charge. She                                                               
explained  the  most  common  problem is  not  meeting  the  math                                                               
requirement and that four or  five opportunities exist for people                                                               
to go and take a math class at no charge.                                                                                       
MARSHA  NAGY,  representing  herself,  Kiana,  Alaska,  spoke  in                                                               
opposition to  SB 109.  She said  she has been  a teacher  for 30                                                               
years  and believes  the HSGQE  needs modification  and does  not                                                               
meet  the  needs of  some  lesser-skilled  students. She  said  a                                                               
spectrum  of  opinions  exist  across  the  11  villages  in  the                                                               
Northwest  Arctic Borough;  however, her  students in  government                                                               
and global  issues feel that  the HSGQE  helps set goals,  sets a                                                               
standard and gives them a place  to head toward in their academic                                                               
career. She said she is concerned  about the amount of money that                                                               
is  squandered on  standardized testing  protocol. She  said that                                                               
while  the HSGQE  does  need to  be modified,  it  should not  be                                                               
dumped until something better is in place.                                                                                      
4:03:10 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THOMAS  asked if Ms.  Nagy had suggestions  for modifying                                                               
the  HSGQE and  if she  thought  the exam  should be  used as  an                                                               
evaluation tool.                                                                                                                
MS. NAGY  replied that  the HSGQE  presents problems  for special                                                               
education kids  or limited-English speakers but  that her average                                                               
or  above-average students  find the  exam insultingly  easy. She                                                               
felt  that  allowing students  three  chances  to pass  the  exam                                                               
should not change  and she described a student who  did poorly on                                                               
the HSGQE the  first time but finally passed  and understood that                                                               
"you cannot  fluff your way  through high school." She  felt that                                                               
the absence of a minimal exit exam makes a mockery of hard work.                                                                
CHAIR  OLSON asked  what the  passing rate  of the  HSGQE was  in                                                               
Kiana last year.                                                                                                                
MS. NAGY replied that about 75 percent passed.                                                                                  
CHAIR OLSON asked what has happened  to the students in Kiana who                                                               
have not passed the HSGQE -  what their lifestyle is like now and                                                               
what they are up to.                                                                                                            
4:06:00 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  NAGY  said that  ultimately  most  of Kiana's  seniors  have                                                               
passed the HSGQE and are involved  in an array of activities. She                                                               
said she cannot think of a student that did not pass last year.                                                                 
CHAIR OLSON asked about the four years she has been in Kiana.                                                                   
MS. NAGY apologized and said she could not speak to this.                                                                       
RICHARD DENNIS, representing  himself, Chistochina, Alaska, spoke                                                               
in  opposition to  SB  109. He  said  he came  to  Alaska in  the                                                               
1970's, has  taught from the  Aleutians to the arctic  and worked                                                               
as an administrator.  He explained that he  was initially against                                                               
the HSGQE.  Over time,  he saw  students focusing,  achieving and                                                               
valuing the test. He suggested the  HSGQE is not redundant but is                                                               
the only  test that measures minimum  competency. Underperforming                                                               
schools  are related  to community  attitudes and  the HSGQE  has                                                               
focused  student's attitudes.  He said  many professions  have to                                                               
take a test  to ensure some competency. He said  he thought rural                                                               
education  has benefitted  from  the HSGQE  because  "each of  us                                                               
values that which we have to work hard for."                                                                                    
4:10:09 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THOMAS asked  if it seemed reasonable to  Mr. Dennis that                                                               
that a  student can  complete all  high school  requirements, yet                                                               
fail the HSGQE, and not graduate or get a diploma.                                                                              
MR. DENNIS answered  that in order to get a  high school diploma,                                                               
a student  has to pass  all three elements  of the exit  exam and                                                               
complete the  school district requirements.  "It's not  'or' it's                                                               
'and.'" He  has observed  students having  a good  attitude about                                                               
the HSGQE and have going after it.  He felt that the HSGQE took a                                                               
bit of  the pressure  off of  any particular  teacher who  is not                                                               
passing  a  student. The  students  seem  to have  accepted  more                                                               
responsibility for their own learning.                                                                                          
SENATOR THOMAS said  he is questioning the fairness  of the HSGQE                                                               
prohibiting  some  students  from   getting  a  diploma  if  they                                                               
completed all of the rest of the work.                                                                                          
4:12:34 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. DENNIS said the HSGQE is  a minimum competency test; it is at                                                               
the  eighth grade  level. He  said giving  someone a  high school                                                               
diploma  does not  assure that  the person  can add,  multiply or                                                               
read. The exit  exam is designed to assure that  if someone has a                                                               
high school  diploma and  has passed the  HSGQE, that  person has                                                               
basic skills.                                                                                                                   
THERESA  HOLT, Governor's  Council  on  Disabilities and  Special                                                               
Education, said the Council works  to create change that improves                                                               
the  lives  of  people  with   disabilities.  The  Council's  top                                                               
education priority this  year is to support SB 109.  She said the                                                               
stakes  for  the HSGQE  are  too  high  and result  in  extremely                                                               
limited opportunities for students who  do not pass, many of whom                                                               
have  disabilities. She  explained that  going on  to college  or                                                               
vocational school,  joining the military,  or getting a  job that                                                               
pays a  living wage are  all difficult  to do without  a diploma.                                                               
The HSGQE focuses  resources at the wrong end  of the educational                                                               
system.  She said  students take  the test  at the  end of  ninth                                                               
grade  but  remediation  does not  start  until  eleventh  grade.                                                               
Research  suggests  one  hour  per   day  of  specific,  directed                                                               
instruction  is needed  for each  year a  student is  behind. For                                                               
example, a  tenth grade student  reading at a fourth  grade level                                                               
is six years behind. She questioned  how an extra six hours could                                                               
be fit  into the  high school schedule  while still  allowing the                                                               
student  to get  all the  credits  needed to  graduate. She  said                                                               
students and teachers are set up for an impossible task.                                                                        
4:15:39 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. HOLT said that teachers end  up teaching students how to pass                                                               
the test rather  than teaching reading, writing  and math skills.                                                               
Students miss  out on vocational  opportunities or  activities in                                                               
which they  do well, such as  music, art or sports,  because they                                                               
are always in remedial classes in addition to core subjects.                                                                    
She said  we need  to look at  accountability in  kindergarten to                                                               
third  grade.  She  said the  Department  of  Education  recently                                                               
brought up  some speakers from  the Kennewick School  District in                                                               
Washington who had set the  bar in accountability at third grade;                                                               
ninety percent  of all students  would be reading at  grade level                                                               
by  third grade.  Some school  districts in  Alaska have  similar                                                               
programs  to   remediate  early.  She  said   the  Standard  Base                                                               
Assessment (SBA) tests students every  year, showing in the third                                                               
grade, and every grade after,  which students are behind. When it                                                               
is first  known that  a student  is behind is  the time  to start                                                               
remediation; gaining one year is  much easier than six years. She                                                               
said her son  was not reading by fifth grade  in spite of several                                                               
hours  per day  of special  education. With  one-on-one attention                                                               
for two hours a day, three  times a week at a private remediation                                                               
clinic, he caught up to fifth grade reading in one summer.                                                                      
She said the HSGQE ruins  students' self-esteem and a student who                                                               
fails the  SBA every single year  in convinced that he  or she is                                                               
never going to learn the skills.  Then we make the student retake                                                               
the test  up to  six times and  ask the student  to stay  in high                                                               
school one more year when all their friends have graduated.                                                                     
CHAIR OLSON asked Ms. Holt to summarize.                                                                                        
4:19:12 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. HOLT said  there are ways to start early  and get students up                                                               
to  age  and  grade  level. WorkKeys  can  address  the  business                                                               
community's  needs  and show  skill  levels.  She suggested  that                                                               
instead of a student being able  to graduate with a D minus grade                                                               
point average, maybe a student  should be required to have higher                                                               
grades to get a diploma.                                                                                                        
SENATOR  THOMAS  agreed  that  a  lot  of  testing  is  done  and                                                               
intervention  and remediation  should be  done earlier.  He asked                                                               
what Ms. Holt would do to modify or replace the test.                                                                           
MS. HOLT replied  that she would put accountability  at the third                                                               
grade level  and have  90 percent of  students reading.  She said                                                               
WorkKeys could  be used as  an incentive for students  to improve                                                               
and show  their scores  to employers,  but not  as a  high stakes                                                               
RON FUHRER,  representing himself,  said he is  a teacher  in the                                                               
Anchorage School  District.   He reported that  on the  days that                                                               
high  stakes tests  are given,  a  huge amount  of resources  are                                                               
expended.  A stigma  is place  on students  who do  not pass  the                                                               
HSGQE. He  said that  student performance  is tracked  with SBA's                                                               
and  then students  who  fail one  piece of  the  HSGQE are  told                                                               
"Sorry, you  are just going  to get a certificate  of attendance,                                                               
you are not going to get  a diploma." Such a student's ability to                                                               
find a living wage job has been seriously impacted.                                                                             
4:22:42 PM                                                                                                                    
BARB  ENGIAC, president,  National  Education Association  Alaska                                                               
(NEA), told a  story about Alaska's high school  students and how                                                               
proud students  and communities were  of high  school graduation.                                                               
She continued:                                                                                                                  
     Then one day, some folks  decided they knew better than                                                                    
     the  well-trained educators  in the  state. They  said,                                                                    
     'We know  what's wrong  with kids  today. They  are not                                                                    
     being taught well  enough and we can prove  it. We will                                                                    
     use  our influence  to impose  a test  to be  sure that                                                                    
     students are  learning and  teachers are  teaching.' So                                                                    
     the HSGQE was born.                                                                                                        
She  said the  idea  of students  meeting  minimum standards  has                                                               
merit, but the HSGQE has not done  the job it was intended to do.                                                               
The  HSGQE causes  confusion  among some  students  who pass  the                                                               
HSGQE  and believe  continuing formal  education is  unnecessary.                                                               
The  HSGQE   causes  great  anxiety   among  students   who  have                                                               
difficulty  in  formalized  test  settings. The  HSGQE  makes  no                                                               
allowance for second language learners.                                                                                         
4:25:38 PM                                                                                                                    
She concluded her story by saying:                                                                                              
     Parents, students, educators  and community members all                                                                    
     shared  their  perspectives.  They concluded  that  the                                                                    
     test  was  not  helpful  and  in  some  cases  actually                                                                    
     causing  harm.  Along  came Senator  Bettye  Davis  who                                                                    
     introduced SB 109. The bill  was set to repeal the exit                                                                    
     exam. NEA Alaska members applauded  the effort and were                                                                    
     jumping with excitement that  their voices were finally                                                                    
     being heard.                                                                                                               
MS. ENGIAC said  she has been an educator in  Bethel for 30 years                                                               
and is the  parent of a senior at Brown  University. She recalled                                                               
her daughter and her friends  talking about their perspectives on                                                               
the test.  Her daughter  saw it  as nothing  more than  a hurdle.                                                               
Some  looked at  it as  another worry  and struggle  before being                                                               
able to achieve  a diploma. Some felt they would  drop out, get a                                                               
GED and  not worry about the  HSGQE. Several kids are  working in                                                               
minimum  paying  jobs  in  Bethel,  having  not  furthered  their                                                               
education because they saw the HSGQE as an obstacle.                                                                            
She explained that NEA -  Alaska is not opposed to accountability                                                               
but wants something productive rather than an obstacle.                                                                         
4:28:28 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  THOMAS asked  Ms. Engiac  about earlier  remediation and                                                               
what testing should be in place,  if any, to replace the HSGQE as                                                               
a better judge of academic acuity.                                                                                              
MS.  ENGIAC replied  that many  options exist  to help  make sure                                                               
remediation  is  in place  earlier.  She  said catching  learning                                                               
deficiencies   as  early   as   possible   allows  the   greatest                                                               
opportunity for success. Although the  HSGQE was intended to show                                                               
that kids  have a minimum  set of skills, many  community members                                                               
and  kids have  seen it  as  the standard:  "Once we've  achieved                                                               
that, we're  there." She said  the Regents  Exam is given  in New                                                               
York and proves how much achievement has been obtained.                                                                         
4:31:04 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MENARD asked if Ms.  Engiac had a fundamental belief that                                                               
a student should be able to graduate  if he or she scores well in                                                               
a class.                                                                                                                        
MS. ENGIAC  replied yes,  if rigorous standards  are in  place in                                                               
course work. She said exams in a course prove skill level.                                                                      
SENATOR FRENCH asked about the New York state Regents exam.                                                                     
MS. ENGIAC replied  that the idea of the Regents  exam is to look                                                               
at  the skill  set  and the  achievement of  a  student based  on                                                               
rigorous testing.  The exam shows  what level the student  is at,                                                               
rather than  just achieving  a cut  score. She  said the  exam is                                                               
comprehensive, testing more than reading, writing and math.                                                                     
SENATOR  FRENCH  asked  if  the  exam places  the  student  on  a                                                               
continuum  of  high, middle  and  low  achieving and  gives  some                                                               
feedback  to the  community about  how  the student  fits in  the                                                               
overall standings.                                                                                                              
MS. ENGIAC replied, "Correct."                                                                                                  
4:33:08 PM                                                                                                                    
WAYNE  STEVENS,  President  and  CEO,  Alaska  State  Chamber  of                                                               
Commerce  (ASCC), said  the  ASCC was  actively  involved in  and                                                               
supportive of  efforts to create  the exit  exam in 2000  - 2001.                                                               
Like  business  and government,  the  education  system needs  to                                                               
measure results of  their efforts. He said the  ASCC supports the                                                               
merit-based  scholarship concept  to raise  the bar  on education                                                               
and education requirements.  Talking of lowering the  bar of high                                                               
school graduation  is a shame while  trying to raise the  bar for                                                               
merit-based  scholarships.   He  said   merit-based  scholarships                                                               
propose that  we: increase high school  graduation rates, improve                                                               
academic performance of students, improve preparedness for post-                                                                
secondary education, increase the  scores of high school students                                                               
on college  entrance exams, increase job  training opportunities,                                                               
and  expand the  pool of  high school  students who  pursue post-                                                               
secondary  opportunities. He  said all  the effort  in discussing                                                               
merit-based  scholarships does  not  include  saying, "Lower  the                                                               
bar, take out the exam, lower the standards."                                                                                   
He  said the  ASCC is  so  concerned about  high school  students                                                               
being ready to enter the work  force that it is starting a summer                                                               
program  called  Alaska  Business  Week.  This  opportunity  will                                                               
introduce  100   high  school  students  to   the  principles  of                                                               
business. He said  the ASCC supports efforts  to raise graduation                                                               
requirements and encourages the continuation of the HSGQE.                                                                      
4:35:48 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THOMAS  asked what  statistics Mr.  Steven's observations                                                               
about higher graduation rates are based on.                                                                                     
MR.  STEVENS said  he  was speaking  about  what the  merit-based                                                               
scholarship idea proposes.                                                                                                      
SENATOR THOMAS  said he thought Mr.  Steven's statement indicated                                                               
that  the  HSGQE  had  in fact  increased  graduation  rates  and                                                               
lowered dropout rates.                                                                                                          
MR.  STEVENS explained  that the  ASCC supports  the merit  based                                                               
scholarship program and the proposed  increased standards that go                                                               
along with  it. He said standards  should not be reduced  in some                                                               
areas  while implementing  higher standards  for the  merit-based                                                               
scholarship program.                                                                                                            
SENATOR THOMAS said no one wants  to go backwards but rather want                                                               
to  make  sure  evaluation  is  done  properly  and  is  used  to                                                               
remediate earlier.                                                                                                              
LARRY  LADOUX, Commissioner,  Department of  Education and  Early                                                               
Development (EED),  said he  would speak to  the position  of the                                                               
state Board  of Education. He  said flexibility must  be balanced                                                               
with rigor  and fairness  with high standards  and that  his head                                                               
and  his heart  often conflict.  He said  the Board  of Education                                                               
recognizes  the serious  concerns with  HSGQE including  the time                                                               
required to administer the exam.                                                                                                
4:39:33 PM                                                                                                                    
He said another concern is that  when a student does not pass the                                                               
exam,  the  focus  of  his  or her  high  school  career  becomes                                                               
remediation instead of courses that  enlighten and inspire. Other                                                               
concerns  are the  HSGQE's impact  on the  social environment  of                                                               
schools  which have  fewer electives  and more  remedial courses,                                                               
and  the  impact   on  an  individual  who   does  not  graduate.                                                               
Graduation  from  high  school  is  a rite  of  passage  and  any                                                               
interference causes severe  stress. He said he has  sat with many                                                               
students who did  not graduate due to other  barriers besides the                                                               
HSGQE, such as not passing senior  English or history. He said if                                                               
a child begins life with a sense of failure, if follows them.                                                                   
The Board of  Education recognizes concerns for those  who do not                                                               
pass the exam but  feels it should be in place  until a system of                                                               
accountability  ensures   that  students  are   reaching  certain                                                               
standards. He  said the  HSGQE is a  type of  accountability that                                                               
does not exist elsewhere in the  system. He explained that when a                                                               
student does not pass, the  parents, school, teachers and student                                                               
focus on  the need to  learn the  information. He said  last year                                                               
273  students  got  a  certificate of  attendance  instead  of  a                                                               
diploma  due to  not passing  the exam.  He explained  that these                                                               
students were  not able to pass  an exam with standards  based on                                                               
the eighth, ninth and tenth grade  level. Before the start of the                                                               
HSGQE, these  students would  have earned  a diploma  and entered                                                               
the work force.                                                                                                                 
4:42:32 PM                                                                                                                    
He said  students with  disabilities do not  pass the  HSGQE very                                                               
well compared to  other students but pointed out  that the number                                                               
of  students  who do  pass  the  exam  with a  special  education                                                               
designation  is increasing.  He  said people  are working  harder                                                               
than ever  before. He pointed  out that a student  could graduate                                                               
with a D minus  in every class and get a  full diploma. The HSGQE                                                               
adds accountability  to that. The  HSGQE provides  businesses and                                                               
employers  an assurance  that everyone  who has  an Alaskan  high                                                               
school  diploma has  a  basic education  through  the eighth  and                                                               
ninth grade. He  said the number of graduates  increased almost 5                                                               
percent last year.                                                                                                              
He said  the state Board  of Education has  unanimously expressed                                                               
"that  we need  to hold  the  course" while  paying attention  to                                                               
concerns.  Most   other  states  with  high   stakes  exams  have                                                               
alternative pathways but  even those do not  guarantee that every                                                               
student will graduate  from high school. The intent  of the exam,                                                               
to make sure  every student meets minimum  requirements, is still                                                               
He  said  that any  law  that  does  not provide  flexibility  to                                                               
respond to individual  needs is going to cause  problems. He said                                                               
he  has  heard heart-wrenching  stories  of  the HSGQE  affecting                                                               
students, through  no fault of their  own. He said he  hears from                                                               
teachers and counselors asking for help  and he does not have the                                                               
ability to  respond. He  said to  treat all kids  the same  is to                                                               
treat them unfairly.                                                                                                            
4:45:35 PM                                                                                                                    
He continued  and said  next year,  eleventh grade  students will                                                               
take the  WorkKeys exam which  measures work  readiness. National                                                               
standards   are  also   coming  down   the  line   with  national                                                               
assessments at every grade level. He  said we do need to focus on                                                               
literacy before third grade and  early learning to make sure kids                                                               
come  to school  ready learn.  He  felt good  assessments are  in                                                               
place  to show  early on  that some  students will  not pass  the                                                               
HSGQE  and  interventions  are  happening.  The  state  Board  of                                                               
Education  is looking  for ways  to resolve  issues but  believes                                                               
that  lowering  the accountability  level  will  not protect  the                                                               
kids.  Since the  HSGQE began,  kids are  performing higher  than                                                               
before in many ways.                                                                                                            
4:48:07 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MENARD asked  Commissioner Morris to speak  to the impact                                                               
of the  passage of  SB 109  on the EED's  contract with  the test                                                               
suppliers and associated costs.                                                                                                 
LES  MORRIS, deputy  commissioner,  Department  of Education  and                                                               
Early Development (EED)  said the fiscal note attached  to SB 109                                                               
shows  a potential  net savings  of $1.3  million in  fiscal year                                                               
2010, the first  year SB 109 would be implemented.  A contract is                                                               
in place until 2016 and would  have to be renegotiated. The HSGQE                                                               
is  part of  a larger  contract  with all  standard based  exams.                                                               
Renegotiating could result in potential savings.                                                                                
SENATOR MENARD said asked about WorkKeys.                                                                                       
MR.  MORRIS replied  that WorkKeys  is an  assessment that  gives                                                               
students an indication  of their level and those  levels are then                                                               
tied to certain  careers. It tells you if you  have the potential                                                               
to do well  in a particular career. WorkKeys  is an off-the-shelf                                                               
product  as opposed  to  a custom  developed  product. The  state                                                               
Board of Education has required  WorkKeys as an assessment at the                                                               
eleventh grade starting next school year.                                                                                       
SENATOR MENARD asked about the cost of WorkKeys.                                                                                
MR. MORRIS replied  that he does not have  that information right                                                               
4:50:53 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  THOMAS   said  he  is   glad  that  the   discussion  of                                                               
accountability is about the whole  system. He felt that the HSGQE                                                               
should be an  evaluation of the entire  system including teachers                                                               
and teacher education  programs, not just a student  in the tenth                                                               
grade.  He said  he understood  that the  HSGQE is  closer to  an                                                               
eighth  grade level  and  so is  not such  a  great standard.  He                                                               
clarified  that he  does not  want to  dumb down  the system  but                                                               
wants to create accountability throughout  the system rather than                                                               
just  saying, "The  student didn't  learn." He  said he  wants to                                                               
include parents, which he knows is difficult.                                                                                   
4:53:06 PM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER LADOUX  said that the  success of a  student leaving                                                               
school  ready  for  the  world  is  an  outcome  of  many  things                                                               
including parenting,  the community and instruction.  He said the                                                               
intent  of  the  Alaska  state  education  plan  is  to  approach                                                               
improvement over a continuum, to  start early, make sure kids can                                                               
read,   find   ways   to  provide   humanities   and   vocational                                                               
opportunities and  the vision to go  on to a career  and college.                                                               
He said  he felt  the accountability  landscape will  improve. He                                                               
would  like to  see a  college-ready  exam that  would report  to                                                               
parents whether their  child is ready for college.  He would like                                                               
to use the  WorkKeys to report whether a child  is ready to enter                                                               
the  world of  training and  technical school.  He would  like to                                                               
make sure that SBA's accurately  represent what kids know and are                                                               
able to  do. He said  Deputy Commissioner Morris will  be meeting                                                               
with  experts to  compare Alaska's  standards  with new  national                                                               
standards and make sure Alaska's  assessments reflect an accurate                                                               
trajectory.  However,  right  now  the HSGQE  is  the  only  real                                                               
accountability in  place. Every  district has  to develop  a plan                                                               
for a student who does not pass the HSGQE.                                                                                      
CHAIR  OLSON asked  if the  HSGQE  has accomplished  what it  was                                                               
supposed to accomplish.                                                                                                         
4:55:20 PM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER LADOUX said  the HSGQE has shown  that some students                                                               
do  not meet  the  expectations  that a  diploma  says a  student                                                               
should  have.  Two-thirds of  the  students  in the  country  are                                                               
subject to high  stakes exams. But studies have not  been done to                                                               
make sure that these exams work or  to look at kids who receive a                                                               
certificate of attendance and see how  they are doing. He said he                                                               
does  believe  that   kids  will  only  rise  to   the  level  of                                                               
accountability  that we  give them.  Special education  students,                                                               
English second  language students, and  all students can  do more                                                               
than we are expecting.                                                                                                          
SENATOR MENARD  asked if Commissioner  LaDoux, in  summary, would                                                               
not like the Legislature to get rid of the exit exam.                                                                           
COMMISSIONER  LADOUX said  he  agrees with  the  position of  the                                                               
state Board of  Education: stay the course, take a  close look at                                                               
the  impact  on  students  and add  necessary  flexibility.  Even                                                               
though more  flexibility means more  work for  administrators, he                                                               
does  not  like  any  legislation   that  will  not  look  at  an                                                               
individual  child. However,  a high  stakes exam  will hold  kids                                                               
CHAIR OLSON  asked if other  states had implemented an  exit exam                                                               
and then repealed it.                                                                                                           
COMMISSIONER LADOUX said the trend  nationally is for more states                                                               
to adopt this kind of rigor.  He pointed out that some states are                                                               
looking at end of course exams  for each course instead of a high                                                               
stakes  exam. He  said most  states have  flexibility built  into                                                               
their system;  Alaska has none  except some flexibility  for some                                                               
special education students.                                                                                                     
4:58:13 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BUNDE  said he has  25 years of teaching  experience from                                                               
elementary  special education  through the  university level.  He                                                               
said dyslexia runs  in his family and he has  a family member who                                                               
is  functionally illiterate.  He said  the HSGQE  began with  his                                                               
reaction to the business community  and the University which both                                                               
complained of  receiving people with Alaska  high school diplomas                                                               
who  were not  able  to  function at  a  high  school level.  The                                                               
business community was frustrated  with getting someone who could                                                               
not read  safety manuals, write  a report  or do basic  math. The                                                               
business  community  had  two choices:  provide  remediation  and                                                               
teach  reading,  writing  and  arithmetic,  which  they  are  not                                                               
prepared  to do  or pay  for,  or fire  the worker.  He said  the                                                               
University  also has  a high  level of  remediation that  costs a                                                               
good deal of money.                                                                                                             
5:01:22 PM                                                                                                                    
The  HSGQE was  developed  and implemented  over  six years.  The                                                               
Legislature  put  the  framework  in place  and  public  members,                                                               
teachers and  experts decided the  minimum that a  student should                                                               
know  and be  able to  do as  a high  school graduate.  Though he                                                               
shares concerns  about some  students being  left out,  he thinks                                                               
the HSGQE  has worked  well. He mentioned  that some  high school                                                               
students  took  the  HSGQE  and   wrote  letters  to  the  editor                                                               
concerning it.  Senator Bunde  said the  headline for  an article                                                               
was, "Kill  High School Exit  Exam, Critics Tell Committee."   He                                                               
pointed out  that 55 of  the 63  blogs that followed  the article                                                               
opposed SB 109 and were in favor of keeping the HSGQE.                                                                          
5:04:38 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BUNDE  said he  met with  10 or  12 principals  and vice-                                                               
principals in  the Anchorage  school district  a couple  of years                                                               
after the  HSGQE was in  place. They were enthusiastic  about the                                                               
resulting remediation  and said the students  participated in the                                                               
remediation  because  walking  across  the stage  and  getting  a                                                               
diploma is still  one thing that young people  value. Right after                                                               
they  told Senator  Bunde  this, they  said,  "Now it's  working,                                                               
repeal  it."  He said  people  rise  or  lower  to the  level  of                                                               
expectation. If  the exam  was not  necessary, all  the resulting                                                               
remediation would  have been  taking place  before the  HSGQE. If                                                               
the HSGQE goes away, the remediation will go away.                                                                              
In 2008, 8,000 students received  a high school diploma in Alaska                                                               
while over 500 students received  a certificate of attendance. He                                                               
questioned disenfranchising 8,000 students  by lowering the value                                                               
of their  diploma out  of genuine and  heartfelt concern  for the                                                               
500 who  get a certificate  of attendance. He said  two-thirds of                                                               
the kids that drop out of  Alaska high schools do so because they                                                               
don't get enough credits.                                                                                                       
5:07:22 PM                                                                                                                    
The expectation  that students are  living up to has  changed the                                                               
rigor of  the program. He said,  anecdotally, he used to  go talk                                                               
to classes  about government and  at least  one child had  his or                                                               
her head down to  sleep. Since the HSGQE, he has  never been in a                                                               
class with someone asleep.                                                                                                      
He  clarified that  if someone  gets a  high school  diploma they                                                               
would not take  a GED. He said  the GED is much  tougher and more                                                               
rigorous  test than  the  HSGQE.  He shared  that  80 percent  of                                                               
people polled were in favor of  the HSGQE when it first passed as                                                               
a  higher standard  and more  accountability. He  said a  minimum                                                               
competency test  was also passed  for University  graduates going                                                               
into teaching.                                                                                                                  
5:10:27 PM                                                                                                                    
He said  he has  asked that the  public be polled  on SB  109. He                                                               
hoped  to provide  the committee  with  that data  before SB  109                                                               
moves out of committee. He said  the bottom line is how to define                                                               
what  constitutes a  high school  graduate in  Alaska: a  certain                                                               
level of functional literacy or seat time.                                                                                      
SENATOR MENARD  asked if  Senator Bunde  hired a  poll to  see if                                                               
people want  to do  away with  the HSGQE  and if  the poll  is in                                                               
process now.                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BUNDE responded, yes.                                                                                                   
SENATOR MENARD  asked when Senator  Bunde feels he will  have the                                                               
results of the poll.                                                                                                            
SENATOR BUNDE  answered that  he is hoping  to shortly,  but does                                                               
not have a date.                                                                                                                
5:13:01 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THOMAS  said he  is concerned  that without  a timeframe,                                                               
nothing else will replace the  HSGQE. SB 109 creates a timeframe.                                                               
The HSGQE  does not necessarily go  away but would still  be used                                                               
for an evaluation of the system,  not just the student. If SB 109                                                               
takes effect,  there is  more than  one and a  half years  to put                                                               
something  in place  and  people thought  that  other things  are                                                               
ready to be put in place as a better evaluation.                                                                                
SENATOR BUNDE read the title  of SB 109: "Repealing the Secondary                                                               
Student Competence  Examination." He  said the title  doesn't say                                                               
anything about  finding something  new. He felt  SB 109  would be                                                               
stronger and more  positive if it created a  new competency test,                                                               
rather than just repealing.                                                                                                     
5:15:30 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR OLSON closed public testimony.  He noted that last week the                                                               
committee  heard moving  testimony from  students from  Chevak in                                                               
support of SB  109. He asked Senator Davis to  offer some closing                                                               
comments or answer some of the questions brought up.                                                                            
SENATOR DAVIS said many hearings have  been held on SB 109 so far                                                               
and she noted  it goes to Senate finance next.  She said three or                                                               
four years  ago the state Board  of Education sent a  note to the                                                               
Commissioner saying  it is time to  repeal the exit exam  or come                                                               
up  with alternative  standards. Nothing  happened. She  said she                                                               
thought  about what  could be  done to  make the  HSGQE a  better                                                               
tool, but decided she only wanted  to see if the public wanted to                                                               
keep it or repeal it. She  said the testimony has been excellent.                                                               
She said even  the Commissioner said the Board  of Education felt                                                               
the HSGQE should stay until  alternative assessments are in place                                                               
and she knows  various school districts throughout  the state are                                                               
working on  alternative assessments.   The HSGQE has not  met the                                                               
expectations held in 2002.                                                                                                      
5:18:35 PM                                                                                                                    
She said if SB  109 passes, the HSGQE would not  take place as of                                                               
June 2011,  leaving ample  time for the  EED, Board  of Education                                                               
and various school districts to  come up with alternatives to the                                                               
HSGQE. She pointed out that when  the HSGQE was started, No Child                                                               
Left Behind did  not exist and now we are  teaching to two tests.                                                               
She also  pointed out that the  HSGQE was originally at  a higher                                                               
level. However, so  many kids flunked it that  the standards were                                                               
lowered  and "we  can't lower  them anymore."  In that  case, she                                                               
questioned  why continue  with the  HSGQE. She  said the  savings                                                               
could be  as much as  $3 million,  not including the  savings for                                                               
the districts which  are spending a substantial  amount of money,                                                               
setting  aside six  days and  doing remediation  to teach  to the                                                               
5:21:00 PM                                                                                                                    
She said  all that time and  money could be used  toward building                                                               
assessments  we already  have. She  said the  community is  still                                                               
complaining about our high school graduates.                                                                                    
She said she would like to see  SB 109 move out of committee. She                                                               
did not know  what information Senator Bunde was  having drawn up                                                               
but said that the public has  had two years to share opinions and                                                               
more people are coming forward  with problems with the HSGQE than                                                               
those coming  forward to say  the exam  should stay. She  said no                                                               
one is saying the HSGQE is great, not even Senator Bunde.                                                                       
5:24:13 PM                                                                                                                    
She said even if SB 109 does  not pass, she knows she has brought                                                               
the discussion up and more people are aware and concerned.                                                                      
CHAIR OLSON said  the committee has a lot of  respect for Senator                                                               
Davis  and her  experience and  would give  her as  much time  as                                                               
SENATOR  THOMAS  moved  to  report SB  109  from  committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  attached  fiscal note(s).  There                                                               
being no objection, the motion carried.                                                                                         
5:25:33 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR OLSON adjourned the meeting at 5:25 p.m.                                                                                  

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Sponsor Statement SJR1.pdf SCRA 2/16/2010 3:30:00 PM
SJR1 Back up information.pdf SCRA 2/16/2010 3:30:00 PM
SJR 1 Frequently Asked Questions.pdf SCRA 2/16/2010 3:30:00 PM
SB 109 Memo re Moore vs State.pdf SCRA 2/16/2010 3:30:00 PM
SB 109