Legislature(2009 - 2010)Anch LIO Rm 220

10/23/2009 03:00 PM Senate EDUCATION

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03:04:39 PM Start
03:07:10 PM SB109
04:32:24 PM Sb 102 Discussion
04:54:03 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Committee Discussion of Compulsory
School Attendance Age/Truancy (SB 102)
Heard & Held
            SB 109-REPEAL SECONDARY SCHOOL EXIT EXAM                                                                        
3:07:10 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER announced consideration of SB 109.                                                                               
TOM OBERMEYER, Staff to Senator Davis, read the following into                                                                  
the record:                                                                                                                     
     SB 109 repeals the  Alaska secondary student competency                                                                    
     examination, also  known as the High  School Graduation                                                                    
     Qualifying  Exam (HSGQE)  or 'Exit'  exam.   The  HSGQE                                                                    
     was  initiated in  2001 and  became fully  effective in                                                                    
     2004, following  the trend for  more assessment  in the                                                                    
     No Child Left  Behind Act of 2001.  It  was never clear                                                                    
     that  the Alaska  HSGQE would  improve performance  and                                                                    
     measure whether  students would be better  prepared for                                                                    
     college,   much   less  determine   conclusively   that                                                                    
     students  were  receiving  diplomas but  lacking  basic                                                                    
     skills.  The HSGQE  has become  a 'high  stakes' hurtle                                                                    
     that  has   harmed  many   students  in   Alaska  while                                                                    
     exacerbating  a court  finding in  2007 that  the State                                                                    
     was  violating students'  constitutional  rights to  an                                                                    
     education  without  providing   proper  assistance  and                                                                    
     direction.   (See Moore,  et al.  v.  State of  Alaska,                                                                    
3:10:56 PM                                                                                                                    
     It may  be argued that  State does not need  the HSGQE,                                                                    
     as the  State and all school  districts already require                                                                    
     many  assessment tests  to  determine student  progress                                                                    
     and  competency.  At  the same  time there  is a  trend                                                                    
     away from  exit exams.  The Center  on Education Policy                                                                    
     (CEP)  report  in August,  2008  that  most states  are                                                                    
     moving toward end-of course  exams which assess mastery                                                                    
     of content of a specific  high school course in lieu of                                                                    
     exit  exams. The  current Alaska  HSGQE reportedly  has                                                                    
     been changed  by the Board  of Education and  made less                                                                    
     difficult than  at inception.  As  a result,  the HSGQE                                                                    
     has  become  somewhat  redundant,  time-consuming,  and                                                                    
     expensive  to  administer.   To save  time  and  money,                                                                    
     beginning in the spring of  2006 sophomores took a test                                                                    
     that combined the HSGQE  with a standards-based reading                                                                    
     and math  assessment required by  the federal  No Child                                                                    
     Left Behind Act. Although students  took only one exam,                                                                    
     some questions  counted for  one or  the other  or both                                                                    
     exams to  satisfy state requirements.  (See Legislative                                                                    
     Research Report 06.233, 'History,  Results, and Cost of                                                                    
     the HSGQE,'  June 28, 2006).  The  HSGQE reportedly has                                                                    
     detracted  from the  standard curriculum  and has  also                                                                    
     promoted 'teaching to the test.'                                                                                           
     The  Department  reported  in   2007  that  over  1,100                                                                    
     students statewide failed to  pass the HSGQE after five                                                                    
     opportunities, while  8,524 passed.  See  Moore, supra,                                                                    
     exhibit  2514,   p.  13  of  58,   'Findings  of  Fact,                                                                    
     Conclusions of  Law and Order.' These  numbers excluded                                                                    
     all  students who  had dropped  out  or transferred  to                                                                    
     another  school before  passing.   The  court in  Moore                                                                    
     determined   that   the   State   was   violating   the                                                                    
     substantive due  process rights of students  by denying                                                                    
     high  school   diplomas  to  students   in  chronically                                                                    
     underperforming   school   districts.   Students   were                                                                    
     failing  the High  School  Graduation Qualifying  Exam,                                                                    
     while the  State was failing to  provide the oversight,                                                                    
     assistance,  and  direction  with  clear  standards  to                                                                    
     guide   districts  attempting   to  meet   content  and                                                                    
     performance   standards.   As   a  result,   the  court                                                                    
     concluded  that the  Department was  ultimately failing                                                                    
     to "maintain  a system  of public schools"  as required                                                                    
     under  the Alaska  Constitution,  Article VII,  Section                                                                    
     1.  Finding  insufficient proof of compliance  with its                                                                    
     2007 court  order, the  court in  Moore on  February 4,                                                                    
     2009  gave   the  Department   60  days   to  establish                                                                    
     compliance with  its constitutional duties and  to file                                                                    
     with  the court  'revised  district intervention  plans                                                                    
     that  address and  incorporate as  appropriate remedial                                                                    
     measures  related   to  each   of  the   problem  areas                                                                    
     identified in these Findings.'                                                                                             
     Alaska's experience with high  school exit exams is not                                                                    
     new  but   widespread.     Fearful  that   hundreds  of                                                                    
     thousands of students  would be left behind  by one set                                                                    
     of standardized,  time-pressured tests in New  York, an                                                                    
     article  appeared  in   the  New  York  Times    headed                                                                    
     'Albany  Legislators   Seek  to  Dilute   New,  Tougher                                                                    
     Graduation Exams.'   It was stated in  the article that                                                                    
     'an  unusual bipartisan  coalition of  state lawmakers,                                                                    
     whose constituents ranged  from inner-city residents to                                                                    
     affluent  suburbanites, is  pushing to  scale back  new                                                                    
     more stringent  graduation requirements for  nearly all                                                                    
     pubic high  school students.'  New York  Times, May 12,                                                                    
3:14:28 PM                                                                                                                    
     The  Center  on  Education  Policy  (CEP)  reported  in                                                                    
     August,  2008  that in  the  2007-2008  school year  23                                                                    
     states required  students to take  and pass  exit exams                                                                    
     to receive  a high school diploma.   Three more states,                                                                    
     Arkansas,   Maryland,   and    Oklahoma,   will   begin                                                                    
     withholding  diplomas   within  the  next   few  years,                                                                    
     leading to a  total of 26 states with  such policies by                                                                    
     2012.  Additionally,   Connecticut,  Pennsylvania,  and                                                                    
     Oregon  are  considering  exit exams,  but  Oregon  and                                                                    
     Pennsylvania are opting to  use multiple measures.  The                                                                    
     CEP  reported that  68 percent  of the  nations' public                                                                    
     high  school students  attend school  in the  23 states                                                                    
     with such  policies.  By 2012 approximately  75 percent                                                                    
     of  the nation's  public high  school students  will be                                                                    
     affected, including  84 percent of low  income students                                                                    
     and students of color.                                                                                                     
     The Center  on Education  Policy (CEP)  recommends more                                                                    
     funding  should  be  allocated  to  research  aimed  at                                                                    
     better   understanding  the   impact  of   exit  exams,                                                                    
     considering  the vast  number of  students affected  by                                                                    
     state-mandated   high   school   exit   exams.    State                                                                    
     governments, the  CEP reports, should  move immediately                                                                    
     to collect and  release data on final  passage rates on                                                                    
     these and the rate  of students using alternative paths                                                                    
     to  graduation.  As  they implement  more end-of-course                                                                    
     exams, the CEP recommends  that states address the need                                                                    
     for greater  rigor in  the content  of their  exams and                                                                    
     provide  for   greater  coordination  of   high  school                                                                    
     requirements   with  college   preparedness  and   work                                                                    
     readiness demands.                                                                                                         
     While  dropping the  HSGQE does  not remedy  underlying                                                                    
     problems   in    delivering   quality    education   in                                                                    
     underperforming districts  already identified  by other                                                                    
     assessments,  it does  remove the  risk that  a student                                                                    
     can be denied a diploma  after 12 years of education by                                                                    
     one  exam.  Eliminating  the HSGQE  may also  encourage                                                                    
     youth to  stay in school  long enough to get  a diploma                                                                    
     and  reduce the  dropout  rate.   After complying  with                                                                    
     court-ordered requirements in  Moore, and perhaps after                                                                    
     experience   with  other   on-going  assessments,   the                                                                    
     Department  and  the  Board  of  Education  may  better                                                                    
     determine whether an exit exam  or HSGQE Exam is in the                                                                    
     best  interests of  the  state,  recognizing that  more                                                                    
     states seem  to be moving  away from exit  exams toward                                                                    
     end-of-course exams.                                                                                                       
3:17:17 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS  explained that she  initially introduced  the bill                                                               
to  get  input from  the  public  as  to  whether the  HSGQE  was                                                               
working. She  brought it back  because that question  hasn't been                                                               
CO-CHAIR MEYER asked what percentage  of students have passed the                                                               
MR.  OBERMEYER  replied about  95  percent  passed, but  only  69                                                               
percent graduated.                                                                                                              
CO-CHAIR  MEYER asked  how special  needs  are accommodated  when                                                               
taking the test.                                                                                                                
3:19:53 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON related  that the  High School  Graduation                                                               
Working Group  recommended eliminating the high  stakes nature of                                                               
the high  school qualifying exam  and perhaps replacing  the exam                                                               
with levels of WorkKeys.                                                                                                        
EDDY  JEANS,  Director,  School  Finance,  Alaska  Department  of                                                               
Education  and  Early  Development,   said  the  State  Board  of                                                               
Education   and  Early   Development  (State   Board)  has   been                                                               
discussing this  issue and a task  force has been working  on how                                                               
to  improve graduation  rates. One  issue is  that many  students                                                               
view the  HSGQE as  the termination  point for  attending school,                                                               
but the  State Board is  looking for  an assessment tool  to help                                                               
students  improve their  education.  Information  from that  tool                                                               
would  be shared  with parents  and  private industry  as to  the                                                               
student's achievement levels.                                                                                                   
3:25:49 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. JEANS said  he isn't prepared to say that  the State Board is                                                               
looking at replacing the HSGQE  with WorkKeys or that it believes                                                               
that the  WorkKeys can replace the  HSGQE as a high  stakes test.                                                               
The question is whether the state  needs a high stakes test or if                                                               
there  is another  way  to  get the  information  to parents  and                                                               
future employers about students' education abilities.                                                                           
The HSGQE  is a  minimum competency  exam and  includes questions                                                               
from  8-10   grades.  It  is  embedded   in  the  standards-based                                                               
assessment test  that's given  to all  10th grade  students. It's                                                               
also offered  as a stand-alone  test to those students  who don't                                                               
pass on the first try.                                                                                                          
MR. JEANS  explained that the HSGQE  is part of the  state's $6.7                                                               
million/year,   six-year    contract   with    Data   Recognition                                                               
Corporation  (DRC) to  administer and  score its  standards-based                                                               
3:28:24 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS  asked when the DEED  will issue an opinion  on the                                                               
MR. JEANS replied the State  Board has been discussing that issue                                                               
and will likely be closer to  a definitive answer in the December                                                               
meeting. It  wants a tool  that provides information that  can go                                                               
on  students'  transcripts  to inform  parents  and  the  private                                                               
sector about  the students' academic  attainments other  than the                                                               
HSGQE, which is simply pass/fail.                                                                                               
CO-CHAIR  MEYER  asked what  percentage  of  students passed  the                                                               
HSGQE, and how children with learning disabilities are handled.                                                                 
3:31:31 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. JEANS  said he would  get that information to  the committee,                                                               
but Eric  McCormick, the director  of assessments, has  said that                                                               
more students fail to graduate  because they didn't complete high                                                               
school credit  requirements than those  who didn't pass  the high                                                               
school qualifying exam.                                                                                                         
Special education  students typically  have the terms  for taking                                                               
tests written into their  IEP (individualized education program).                                                               
When  the  high  school  qualifying  exam  initially  passed  the                                                               
special education  community brought a lawsuit  against the state                                                               
to ensure  that students had  alternative means to attain  a high                                                               
school  diploma.  That  was  narrowed   to  allow  some  kind  of                                                               
portfolio   assessment  for   some   students,   but  most   have                                                               
accommodations within their IEP.                                                                                                
3:34:07 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS asked if the HSGQE  is used for any other purpose                                                               
like evaluating  how teachers  are prepared  or the  relevance of                                                               
the subject matter.                                                                                                             
MR. JEANS  explained that  Alaska has  an assessment  system with                                                               
standards  that were  developed  by Alaskans  that measures  what                                                               
students  should know  and be  able to  do in  each grade  level.                                                               
Reading, writing, and math assessments  are conducted annually in                                                               
grades  3-10 and  student achievement  is measured  against those                                                               
standards,  which have  grade  level  expectations. The  existing                                                               
system can  track individual performance and  provide information                                                               
to teachers  so they can develop  individual instruction programs                                                               
to target areas  in which a student is  underperforming. The high                                                               
school  qualifying exam  is a  separate and  different assessment                                                               
tool. It  is intended to  measure minimum competency  in reading,                                                               
writing, and math to issue a high school diploma, nothing more.                                                                 
Addressing Senator  Thomas's question,  he said that  the state's                                                               
assessment system does provide  information about what individual                                                               
children  know and  can do  based on  the expectations  the state                                                               
CO-CHAIR THOMAS asked  what the $6.7 million/year  breaks down to                                                               
per student.                                                                                                                    
MR.  JEANS  replied  he'd provide  that  information  later;  the                                                               
assessments are only  done in grades 3-10 and he  didn't know the                                                               
enrollments in those grades.                                                                                                    
3:38:27 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. OBERMEYER  directed attention  to a  May 1,  2009 legislative                                                               
research report  that indicated in  2007/09 the average  cost per                                                               
student was $123. He highlighted for  the record that in 2002 the                                                               
exam  was refocused  to emphasize  essential  skills and  minimum                                                               
competencies. The report  states that each year  between 2002 and                                                               
2006  an  average of  71  percent  of sophomore  students  tested                                                               
proficient in reading,  86 percent in writing, and  70 percent in                                                               
math.  In 2005  about 61  percent of  sophomores taking  the full                                                               
exam passed  all three parts  of the  exam, and about  11 percent                                                               
did not. In 2006 about 68  percent of sophomores passed all three                                                               
parts of the exam, and about 7 percent did not pass any part.                                                                   
3:41:26 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON asked  what percentage  of sophomores  who                                                               
passed the  exam might need  remediation before getting a  job or                                                               
furthering their education.                                                                                                     
MR. JEANS  replied very  few sophomores would  be ready  to enter                                                               
the  work force  or go  on to  higher education  after passing  a                                                               
minimum  competency  exam.  There   isn't  a  direct  correlation                                                               
between  required remediation  and students  who have  passed the                                                               
high school qualifying exam, he added.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  questioned  what a  high  school  diploma                                                               
qualifies a  person to do  and observed  that it's a  struggle to                                                               
understand whether  the high school qualifying  exam really means                                                               
something to future employers.                                                                                                  
3:44:56 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. JEANS  related that the  HSGQE was never intended  to measure                                                               
whether or not  students are ready for  post secondary education;                                                               
it  was  intended  to  assure private  sector  employers  that  a                                                               
student with  a high  school diploma could,  at a  minimum, read,                                                               
write  and do  basic  math. As  previously  mentioned, the  State                                                               
Board is interested  in looking at other kinds  of assessments to                                                               
provide  employers   and  the   University  system   with  better                                                               
information on what students can  do when they leave high school.                                                               
For  example,  WorkKeys  provide information  about  a  student's                                                               
proficiency on four levels that  are labeled bronze, silver, gold                                                               
and platinum.  Obviously, he  said, a  student that  has platinum                                                               
scores on  his transcript is likely  to be more trainable  than a                                                               
student with silver scores.                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR  MEYER  said  he  hopes  to hear  from  the  Chamber  of                                                               
Commerce  or someone  from the  private sector  on this  issue as                                                               
this bill progresses.                                                                                                           
3:48:18 PM                                                                                                                    
THERESA  HOLT, Governor's  Council  on  Disabilities and  Special                                                               
Education, supported  SB 109. She  explained that she  just spent                                                               
the last couple of weeks  reading the Center for Education policy                                                               
reports on the exit exams and  all the state report cards for the                                                               
last 10 years  and concluded that the exit exam  has not actually                                                               
increased the  graduation rate and  doesn't decrease  the dropout                                                               
The  Center for  Education  policy says  that,  in general,  exit                                                               
exams have  a negative  impact, and after  it was  implemented in                                                               
2004,  the dropout  rate increased  significantly. Since  then it                                                               
has slowly decreased, but it is  still not to where it was before                                                               
the  exit  exam was  implemented.  The  HSGQE also  significantly                                                               
impacts  students   from  minorities,   low  income   homes,  and                                                               
especially students  with disabilities.  While she had  only 2006                                                               
data, she  said Alaskan children  of Caucasian decent  passed the                                                               
HSGQE at an  86 percent rate their first time  taking it. African                                                               
Americans passed at  a 58 percent test rate; Latinos  passed at a                                                               
73 percent pass rate and Native  Americans passed at a 60 percent                                                               
pass rate.                                                                                                                      
MS.  HOLT  stated  that  the  Council  is  especially  interested                                                               
because  individuals with  disabilities  passed at  a 30  percent                                                               
rate. Research from  the Center for Education  Policy states that                                                               
exit exams don't  have an impact on academic  achievement and are                                                               
hardly worth the cost. They  don't help students become gainfully                                                               
employed especially in those subgroups  that traditionally have a                                                               
hard  time  becoming  employed  anyhow.  Passing  the  exit  exam                                                               
doesn't help  students get  into college,  but failing  does keep                                                               
them out - especially the students in the subgroups.                                                                            
3:53:03 PM                                                                                                                    
She related a story that  happened on Disability Mentor Day about                                                               
a boy  who had passed  all his classes,  had a good  grade point,                                                               
volunteers everywhere  and who had  a scholarship to a  college -                                                               
except if  he didn't pass one  portion of the exit  exam he would                                                               
lose  his scholarship.  He has  one  chance left.  If he  doesn't                                                               
pass,  he won't  go to  college  because he  doesn't have  enough                                                               
She reminded  them that  not having HSGQE  won't save  the system                                                               
that much  money, because  they still  have to have  a 10   grade                                                               
test. But  they would save on  the cost of the  retests. She said                                                               
that the  exit exam  requirement came with  no extra  funding and                                                               
asked  them to  consider the  hidden costs  that districts  incur                                                               
because  of it  -  such as  time away  from  class (three  entire                                                               
days)-  that really  impacts those  students  who need  to be  in                                                               
class the most.  It also disrupts the  general education students                                                               
who have passed it, because they  go to class but can't really do                                                               
work  because then  the students  who are  taking the  test would                                                               
have to make up three entire days of work.                                                                                      
3:55:11 PM                                                                                                                    
Some other  costs are for  time that teachers spend  after school                                                               
tutoring  students  who   are  close  to  passing.   It  costs  a                                                               
significant amount  of money to  raise the scores on  these kinds                                                               
of  tests -  and passing  it  doesn't mean  you would  be a  good                                                               
employee. Not  passing it  wouldn't mean that  you wouldn't  be a                                                               
great employee.                                                                                                                 
3:57:18 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. HOLT said everyone must  take the test with no modifications,                                                               
although if  you are blind, for  instance, you can have  the test                                                               
in  braille. The  second  time  around a  student  can apply  for                                                               
modifications like  having the test read  or doing it in  a quiet                                                               
room. The  third time could  be an alternative  assessment, which                                                               
could  be  something  like  showing  work  that  meets  the  same                                                               
standards. However, she know of one  student who is doing that at                                                               
the  exclusion of  everything else  in  his senior  year of  high                                                               
3:59:16 PM                                                                                                                    
Graduation  rates  also  affect school  districts.  If  districts                                                               
don't have  enough students passing  they don't get  AYP funding.                                                               
She  suggested that  instead of  the high-stakes  exit exam  they                                                               
could have  a test that  drives instruction,  teacher evaluations                                                               
and improvement.                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR THOMAS  asked in looking at  the results of the  test if                                                               
anything  surprised  her  about   how  the  student  was  already                                                               
performing - for instance, the  student who had a scholarship but                                                               
couldn't  pass the  exam. It  is not  serving any  purpose if  it                                                               
works  against  them and  doesn't  even  increase the  graduation                                                               
4:02:31 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  HOLT  responded that  the  problem  is  that the  state  has                                                               
changed how  it monitors graduation  rates in the last  10 years.                                                               
So, the  high school report  card has  a column for  "high school                                                               
completion" which  is a number  that could be  tracked throughout                                                               
the 10 years, but the 2004/05  graduation rate is determined by a                                                               
"cohort" that  starts with  all the students  who started  in the                                                               
ninth grade and  follows them through high school.  So the number                                                               
on  the  top of  the  fraction  is  the  number of  students  who                                                               
graduated with  a diploma  and the  number on  the bottom  is the                                                               
number  who started  in ninth  grade.  This is  a very  different                                                               
number than if you measured  the number of students who graduated                                                               
from the  number of students  who are enrolled in  twelfth grade.                                                               
There is  no way to compare  what the graduation rate  was before                                                               
the exam with the rate of after.                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR THOMAS said  it would seem they could come  up with some                                                               
way to better track the graduation rate.                                                                                        
MS. HOLT remarked  that the federal government  clarified all the                                                               
different definitions  used among  the states  on this  issue and                                                               
Alaska chose  the cohort method, which  is a very good  number to                                                               
use. She said the Council's priority  is to look at policy change                                                               
and  it  is surveying  all  of  the education  organizations  and                                                               
pressing  them  to take  a  position,  and  she would  pass  that                                                               
information on to the committee.                                                                                                
4:08:24 PM                                                                                                                    
RHONDA STARK,  State Home School Association,  testified that she                                                               
knew a  young man who  completed all graduation  requirements but                                                               
couldn't pass  the exit exam.  He left campus  without graduating                                                               
and, even though he is a hard worker,  he is not able to enter an                                                               
apprenticeship program.                                                                                                         
4:11:46 PM                                                                                                                    
LAUREL    VORACHEK,   Executive    Director,   Assessments    and                                                               
Evaluations,  Anchorage School  District, supported  SB 109.  Her                                                               
point of  view was from  the perspective of  what is in  the best                                                               
interests  of the  student. Her  district  currently has  several                                                               
mandated tests: the HSGQE, the  HSGQE retest, the standards based                                                               
assessment,  the TerraNova,  National  Assessment of  Educational                                                               
Progress  (NAEP),  the  English Language  Proficiency  Assessment                                                               
(ELPA), and  the revised Alaska  Developmental Profile  (ADP). In                                                               
addition, since  most of the  assessments she just  mentioned are                                                               
end-point   assessments,   her   district   has   added   various                                                               
assessments  at  interim  points   to  monitor  progress  of  its                                                               
students  towards mastery  of the  grade level  expectations. For                                                               
next year they have added WorkKeys and WIN.                                                                                     
She said  she has served on  the committee within the  state that                                                               
has  worked  on  the  implementation  of  the  WorkKeys  and  the                                                               
feedback has  been unanimous:  they can't  manage both  the HSGQE                                                               
and   the   WorkKeys.   She  just   left   the   Assessment   and                                                               
Accountability  meeting  that  was occurring  with  members  from                                                               
around the state and their  feedback was interesting as well. She                                                               
urged them to  not go shopping for another  assessment to replace                                                               
the HSGQE, but  rather look at what  they have and see  if it can                                                               
meet their needs in better ways.                                                                                                
MS. VORACHECK  said it's  very clear that  one of  the unintended                                                               
consequences of the HSGQE is  that some parents and students have                                                               
set their  sights at only passing  it. Once a student  has passed                                                               
all three, it  can actually be a stumbling  block for encouraging                                                               
him to take higher level  course work, and HSGQE means absolutely                                                               
nothing  outside of  this state.  It provides  no information  on                                                               
preparation for college  or work readiness and to  students it is                                                               
just another test.                                                                                                              
She  also does  a  survey  of graduates  and  has  found that  82                                                               
percent said  that the  HSGQE did  not have  any impact  on their                                                               
course selection.                                                                                                               
4:15:16 PM                                                                                                                    
On the  other hand, Ms.  Voracheck said, the WorkKeys  is another                                                               
mandated assessment coming from  the department. It is recognized                                                               
nationwide;  it  uses a  common  language  between educators  and                                                               
employers; it provides information  to students that can motivate                                                               
them to take  courses to improve their skills.  Students are able                                                               
to see  how their  skills compare to  skills in  specific careers                                                               
necessary to  enter the workforce  at an entry level  position or                                                               
have  the  skills  to  continue to  further  their  education  in                                                               
specific  fields beyond  high school.  When this  was piloted  at                                                               
West High  School two years  ago and in  getting ready to  use it                                                               
district wide  she found  that the information  on careers  in it                                                               
peaked students'  interest. It provides valuable  information for                                                               
course planning for a senior  year no matter whether students are                                                               
going on to college or into technical training.                                                                                 
Students  can  retake  this  assessment   and  it  provides  them                                                               
motivation to  work toward higher  levels because they  are ready                                                               
certificates that  are nationally recognized. Bronze  is at level                                                               
three, silver is at level four,  and gold at five and platinum at                                                               
six. If a  student gets a bronze level, he  has incentive to work                                                               
on improving skills and then  retaking the assessment and showing                                                               
a higher level on his transcript.                                                                                               
The tests  in WorkKeys include locating  information, reading for                                                               
information,  and applied  mathematics.  The  reason these  three                                                               
tests are chosen,  and writing isn't, is because  the ACT college                                                               
entrance exam has profiled all the  jobs in the country and found                                                               
that 85 percent  of them require skills  in locating information.                                                               
This is an  area that is under-addressed in  their curriculum and                                                               
is addressed very little in the HSGQE.                                                                                          
Reading for information is at  81 percent and applied mathematics                                                               
is  at 75  percent; writing  is at  17 percent.  If they  want to                                                               
insure that  students have the  essential skills for  entry level                                                               
jobs, WorkKeys  provides that  information. This  assessment also                                                               
indicates  college  readiness.  They   have  done  a  statistical                                                               
concordance that  shows the relationship between  the ACT college                                                               
entrance  exam and  WorkKeys. ACT  is intended  for college-level                                                               
readiness,  WorkKeys for  work force  readiness, but  through the                                                               
concordance table she gets information  that tells her whether or                                                               
not  her student  is  probably  on track  to  reach the  college-                                                               
readiness benchmarks - something she doesn't get from the HSGQE.                                                                
In  closing, she  asked  them  to consider  the  impacts all  the                                                               
mandated  assessments have  on  the district  and  said don't  go                                                               
shopping for  more. If  you are going  to mandate  an assessment,                                                               
let it be  something that provides useful  information for course                                                               
planning and  motivate students to  continue to work  and improve                                                               
their skill level. HSGQE doesn't provide a lot of motivation.                                                                   
4:19:59 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS asked if she was  around when the HSGQE was first                                                               
put in place.                                                                                                                   
MS. HOLT  answered yes; she  was involved with the  pilot program                                                               
in Kodiak.                                                                                                                      
CO-CHAIR THOMAS asked what people thought about it at the time.                                                                 
MS.  HOLT  answered that  the  HSGQE  really came  from  business                                                               
concerns  that students  don't have  essential  skills when  they                                                               
graduate. Educators  didn't ever think it  would provide anything                                                               
meaningful in terms of instruction and course planning.                                                                         
CO-CHAIR THOMAS asked if she remembered testifying against it.                                                                  
MS. HOLT replied she wasn't involved with testimony at the time.                                                                
CO-CHAIR  THOMAS asked  if she  remembered hearing  that business                                                               
concerns  was  not necessarily  the  most  proper motivation  for                                                               
mandating the HSGQE or was  it just accepted because other states                                                               
were using it.                                                                                                                  
MS. HOLT  replied that she was  not involved in the  testimony at                                                               
the time.                                                                                                                       
CO-CHAIR  THOMAS  asked  if  she   felt  that  WorkKeys  and  ACT                                                               
assessments give  her a good  feel for a student's  readiness for                                                               
college or the workplace.                                                                                                       
MS.  HOLT  replied  that WorkKeys  is  already  another  mandated                                                               
assessment,  but  it provides  information  on  both college  and                                                               
workforce readiness. It's a valuable tool in multiple arenas.                                                                   
4:22:29 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS asked if those tests  could be tweaked to be more                                                               
appropriate or not because of the mandate.                                                                                      
MS. HOLT answered that WorkKeys  is a national assessment and she                                                               
didn't think it  needed to be tweaked.  She discouraged requiring                                                               
passing the assessment  for graduation rather than  just using it                                                               
as an assessment  tool to prepare students for what  they want to                                                               
4:24:51 PM                                                                                                                    
MIKE HENRY, Executive Director,  Anchorage School District's High                                                               
Schools,  said he  opposed the  HSGQE  when it  was enacted.  All                                                               
principals and  administrators were  opposed to  it. When  it was                                                               
adopted, they  tried to follow the  mandate and get as  many kids                                                               
to pass it as  possible, but it came at a  big cost that involved                                                               
more than  money. Those students  that didn't pass the  HSGQE are                                                               
missing out on many quality  elective courses because they are in                                                               
classes  that "pretty  much teach  to  the test."  Much time  and                                                               
money has been  spent trying to move students to  that level, but                                                               
he wanted to able to give  those students back the opportunity to                                                               
attend the  King Career  Center instead  of being  in remediation                                                               
classes. He said  they don't mind having high  standards for some                                                               
students, but  this HSGQE has not  done that. It has  not been an                                                               
encouragement for students, educators or parents.                                                                               
4:28:04 PM                                                                                                                    
JOHN ALCANTRA, Government  Relations Director, National Education                                                               
Association   Alaska  (NEA),   said  he   is  confident   of  the                                                               
Association's  unanimous support  for  SB 109  when  it meets  in                                                               
January.  He worried  that sophomores  would pass  the HSGQE  and                                                               
then cruise for  the rest of their time in  school. How many days                                                               
of instruction have they lost now?                                                                                              
CO-CHAIR MEYER said this update  brings the process further along                                                               
and he looks  forward to hearing the bill during  session. He set                                                               
SB 109 aside.                                                                                                                   
^SB 102 discussion                                                                                                              
        SB 102-RAISE COMP. SCHOOL ATTENDANCE AGE/TRUANCY                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER asked  Senator Davis  or her  staff to  brief the                                                               
committee on SB 102 even though it wasn't in this committee now.                                                                
SENATOR  DAVIS  remarked  that  SB  102 is  now  in  the  Finance                                                               
4:32:24 PM                                                                                                                    
TOM OBERMEYER,  Staff to Senator  Davis, sponsor of SB  102, said                                                               
they  now  have  a  committee  substitute (CS)  that  is  an  act                                                               
relating  to  compulsory  school  attendance  age.  He  read  the                                                               
following sponsor statement:                                                                                                    
     SB   102  increases   the   Alaska  compulsory   school                                                                    
     attendance age  from 7  to 16  to age 7  to 18.  At the                                                                    
     same   time  it   necessarily  amends   the  crime   of                                                                    
     contributing  to the  delinquency of  a minor  from the                                                                    
     maximum  age 16  to  18. This  bill  will not  preclude                                                                    
     parents from  homeschooling children, or  using charter                                                                    
     or  alternative schools,  or any  other  of the  twelve                                                                    
     enumerated exceptions to  compulsory education under AS                                                                    
     14.30.010(b),  including  completion  of  grade  12  or                                                                    
     graduation from a secondary school before age 18.                                                                          
     Three  thousand two  hundred  and  eighty three  Alaska                                                                    
     students dropped out and 62.4  percent graduated in the                                                                    
     2007/08  school  year   per  the Alaska  Department  of                                                                    
     Education  and  Early Development  (DEED).  Nationally,                                                                    
     the  graduation  rate is  70  percent  or higher.   The                                                                    
     highest dropout  rates in  Alaska are  among minorities                                                                    
     with  Alaska  Natives at  double  the  rate of  others.                                                                    
     These numbers have  not changed much in  many years and                                                                    
     Alaska's  compulsory  school  attendance  age  has  not                                                                    
     changed in decades.                                                                                                        
     Seventeen states  have increased the  compulsory school                                                                    
     attendance age to  18. Nine states maintain  age 17 and                                                                    
     23 states  maintain age 16  per the U.S.  Department of                                                                  
     Labor,  February 10,  2009. The  legislative intent  by                                                                    
     states   which   have   increased   compulsory   school                                                                    
     attendance age to  18 is to encourage  more students to                                                                    
     stay  in   school  long  enough  to   graduate,  attend                                                                    
     institutions of higher  education, and decrease dropout                                                                    
     rates,  juvenile  crime,  and teen  pregnancy.  Studies                                                                    
     have shown  that students without  a diploma  earn less                                                                    
     than 75 percent of those  with a diploma; they are more                                                                    
     likely to live in poverty,  go to jail, and have health                                                                    
     The  National   Education  Association's  "Twelve-Point                                                                  
     Action  Plan  for  Reducing the  School  Dropout  Rate"                                                                  
     lists  as a  first priority   to  "mandate  high school                                                                    
     graduation  or equivalency  as compulsory  for everyone                                                                    
     below the age of 21."  It reported:                                                                                        
     'Just as  we established  compulsory attendance  to the                                                                    
     age of 16  or 17 in the beginning of  the 20th century,                                                                    
     it is  appropriate and critical  to eradicate  the idea                                                                    
     of  'dropping  out'  before achieving  a  diploma.   To                                                                    
     compete in the 21st century,  all of our citizens, at a                                                                    
     minimum, need a high school education.'                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON said that Representative Munoz had                                                                        
introduced a similar bill.                                                                                                      
4:35:41 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER asked how this bill would affect kids who want to                                                                
join the military at age 17 (with their parents' signature). Do                                                                 
they still have to stay in school to the mandated age of 18?                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS  said she assumes  there could be  an accommodation                                                               
for that  just as  parents now  sign to  allow their  children go                                                               
into the military before they are age 18.                                                                                       
4:40:07 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  remarked   that  the  current  compulsory                                                               
school age has so many "outs"  that he's quite sure that a parent                                                               
could  say  they  are  homeschooling   their  child  through  the                                                               
military  and it  would be  accepted. He  noted that  the packets                                                               
have copies  of the recent  Anchorage School District  study that                                                               
looked at  cohort analysis  from eighth  grade students  in 2002.                                                               
That study  found that  9.7 percent of  students dropped  out in,                                                               
24.5  percent  dropped  out  in ninth  grade,  and  23.9  percent                                                               
dropped out in tenth grade. Almost  60 percent of the dropouts in                                                               
the  Anchorage  School  District  dropped  out  under  compulsory                                                               
school attendance.  So raising  the compulsory  age might  not be                                                               
the way  to attack  the problem  when a  majority of  the problem                                                               
occurs in the lower grades.                                                                                                     
Furthermore, he  said that police  departments and  troopers have                                                               
indicated in  a zero fiscal note  that they don't intend  to even                                                               
ask  for  more resources  to  enforce  this.  "I  have a  lot  of                                                               
concerns, you know, it seems that  we're going forward with a law                                                               
that everybody is planning to ignore."                                                                                          
CO-CHAIR  MEYER said  that's interesting  because  it would  seem                                                               
that this measure would save money for them.                                                                                    
4:44:11 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS  said there  are two sides  to this  issue; schools                                                               
are interested  in increasing the  compulsory age  believing that                                                               
they can  do more for  kids if they are  able to keep  them until                                                               
age 18. She wants to hear all  points of view; it's an issue that                                                               
needs to be discussed.                                                                                                          
CO-CHAIR THOMAS said he can  understand Public Safety's response;                                                               
their view  is budgetary and short  term. He believes it  will be                                                               
tough for  parents to  keep their  kids going  to school  if they                                                               
want  to  drop  out.  That  being said,  he  would  like  to  see                                                               
statistics  on why  students drop  out, because  they would  help                                                               
give direction in deciding how  to remedy dropping out other than                                                               
just demanding that  kids stay in school. He also  noted that the                                                               
University is concerned  that the kids they  are remediating have                                                               
passed the  HSGQE and  have a  diploma yet they  are not  able to                                                               
think critically or analytically.                                                                                               
4:49:54 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  OBERMEYER   highlighted  that  the  Boston   Globe  recently                                                               
announced  that   a  special  state  commission   will  recommend                                                               
measures  to lower  the dropout  rate in  Massachusetts that  has                                                               
approximately  10,000 students  quitting school  each year.  They                                                               
bring  up  the same  things  that  have  been discussed  here  in                                                               
talking about  the need to  raise the school age  with strategies                                                               
to hire case managers in  schools so students can experience more                                                               
personal attention. Their goal is  to halve the dropout rate. The                                                               
costs are  transferable to government  because if these  kids are                                                               
not in school they  are going to be in jail, at  the lower end of                                                               
the  economic scheme,  on Medicaid  and on  other social  service                                                               
programs that will cost government money anyway.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  said many of those  questions are answered                                                               
in  the  Anchorage  School  District's memo  number  96  that  is                                                               
available on line.                                                                                                              

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Assessed Performance Standards HSGQE 2.pdf SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM
2008 Graduation Rates by Subgroup.xls SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM
Sectional SB 109.pdf SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM
SB 109
Letter from ASD Super.pdf SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM
HSGQESpring2009Statewide.pdf SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM
HSGQESpring2008Statewide.pdf SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM
Graduation Rate Fact Sheet 2009.doc SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM
Graduation Rate Fact Sheet.doc SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM
EED news release re lawsuit.pdf SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM
EED News release re AYP.pdf SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM
cover Assessed Performance Standards HSGQE.pdf SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM
Assessed Performance Standards HSGQE.pdf SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM
Sponsor Statement SB 109.pdf SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM
SB 109
word ready 2 of 3.pdf SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM
work ready 1 of 3.pdf SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM
work ready 3 of 3.pdf SEDC 10/23/2009 3:00:00 PM