Legislature(2009 - 2010)FAHRENKAMP 203

01/29/2010 08:00 AM Senate EDUCATION

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Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
Moved CSSB 221(EDC) Out of Committee
            SB 109-REPEAL SECONDARY SCHOOL EXIT EXAM                                                                        
8:11:31 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER announced consideration of SB 109.                                                                               
8:12:51 AM                                                                                                                    
TOM  OBERMEYER, staff  to Senator  Davis, said  SB 109  is an  Act                                                              
repealing  the  secondary  student  competency  exam  and  related                                                              
requirements  and providing  for an  effective date.  The exam  is                                                              
also called  the High  School Graduation  Qualifying Exam  (HSGQE)                                                              
or exit  exam. This exam  was initiated  in 2001 and  effective in                                                              
2004 following  the  trend for more  assessment  in the "No  Child                                                              
Left Behind  Act" (NCLB).  It was never  clear that  Alaska's high                                                              
school  graduation  exam  would  improve  performance  or  measure                                                              
whether  students  are  better prepared  for  college,  much  less                                                              
determine  conclusively whether  students  are receiving  diplomas                                                              
but  lacking  basic skills.  This  particular  exam has  become  a                                                              
high-stakes hurdle,  the only one  of the assessments now  used in                                                              
Alaska that can  prevent students from receiving  diplomas. It has                                                              
made it  very difficult for  some students, excluded  many others,                                                              
and  exacerbated  a court  finding  in  2007  that the  state  was                                                              
violating   students'  constitutional   rights  to  an   education                                                              
without  providing proper  assistance and  direction. He  referred                                                              
the members  to their  materials on  the Moore  vs State  case. He                                                              
added that he believes  Les Morse of the Department  of Social and                                                              
Health  Services  has  provided  the  committee  with  information                                                              
indicating  they  are  taking remedial  action  to  address  those                                                              
court matters.                                                                                                                  
MR.  OBERMEYER mentioned  that  Miss Dounay,  an  expert from  the                                                              
Education  Commission of  the States  (ECS), is  on line.  She has                                                              
observed  that more  and more  states are  going to  end-of-course                                                              
exams and  other methods  of bringing  kids up-to-date  instead of                                                              
using  exit exams.  The  HSGQE is  a very  expensive  exam; it  is                                                              
currently  on a  seven-year, one-year-renewable  contract for  $48                                                              
million dollars, which runs into 2015.                                                                                          
MR. OBERMEYER  noted that the fiscal  note in members'  packets is                                                              
from March  2009 and has not  been updated; it indicates  that the                                                              
state  would save  about $1.5  million per  year by  discontinuing                                                              
the use of this exam.                                                                                                           
8:16:14 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER asked  if Mr. Obermeyer  would  prefer he  ask the                                                              
Department of Health and Social Services about those numbers.                                                                   
MR. OBERMEYER agreed that he would.                                                                                             
CO-CHAIR MEYER commented  that there is also a  cost to individual                                                              
schools for administering the exam.                                                                                             
CO-CHAIR MEYER opened public testimony.                                                                                         
8:17:04 AM                                                                                                                    
TERESA  HOLT,  Governor's  Council  on  Disabilities  and  Special                                                              
Education (GCDSE),  Anchorage, Alaska,  said the council  works on                                                              
issues  that effect  change  in  the system  for  people who  have                                                              
disabilities.  Their  primary focus  is  on system  issues  around                                                              
people  who  have  developmental   disabilities,  including  early                                                              
intervention   services   and  education   of   individuals   with                                                              
developmental disabilities.                                                                                                     
GCDSE has a  broad stakeholder group. Two-thirds  of the committee                                                              
is  made  up  of individuals  with  disabilities  and  parents  of                                                              
persons with disabilities;  it also includes Art  Arnold, Director                                                              
of the  Office of Special  Education in  the Alaska  Department of                                                              
Education,  a  member of  the  Alaska  State Board  of  Education,                                                              
university  professors,  a university  student,  a  representative                                                              
from the  Department of  Corrections, advocates,  and someone  who                                                              
works  with  disabled  persons  seeking  employment.  It  supports                                                              
removal of  the requirement  to pass  the exit  exam to  receive a                                                              
diploma, both in this bill and in HB 205.                                                                                       
There  are two  reasons for  their support;  the first  has to  do                                                              
with  opportunity   and  the  second  with   accountability.  When                                                              
students  graduate  without  a diploma,  their  opportunities  for                                                              
success in  their post-high-school  life are severely  limited. It                                                              
is difficult  to get  into the  military; it  is difficult  to get                                                              
into a  university or  vocational school; and  it is  difficult to                                                              
get  employment  that provides  a  living wage.  The  unemployment                                                              
rate in  Alaska for individuals  with disabilities is  26 percent.                                                              
Resources  follow  accountability, she  stated,  and  that can  be                                                              
seen with the  exit exam. More resources in schools  are dedicated                                                              
to  those eleventh  and  twelfth graders  who  haven't passed  the                                                              
exam, but  GCDSE feels  it is  too late.  By eleventh grade  those                                                              
students  have  most  likely  been   failing  for  several  years.                                                              
Educators  should know  from testing  in  the third  grade and  up                                                              
which  students need  help in reading,  writing,  or math.  To put                                                              
all of  the schools' resources  at the end  of the system  seems a                                                              
bit inefficient.                                                                                                                
MS.  HOLT challenged  the  committee to  find  a way  to put  that                                                              
accountability at  the beginning of the system.  Alaska needs some                                                              
kind of  accountability early in  the system, in order  to prevent                                                              
students from failing  year after year. Students have  a lot fewer                                                              
gaps to  fill at beginning  of their school  careers than  they do                                                              
by eleventh grade.                                                                                                              
8:21:49 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. HOLT communicated  that one of her own children  was not quite                                                              
ready to  read in  kindergarten despite  all of  her efforts  as a                                                              
parent. He  was still behind  in first  grade and in  second grade                                                              
was placed  in special  education. When  he had  not caught  up by                                                              
the fifth  grade, they  pulled him  out of  special education  and                                                              
put him  in a reading clinic.  In one summer  he was up  to grade-                                                              
level,  so she  knows it  is possible.  The resources  have to  be                                                              
allocated  differently;   instead  of  asking  teachers   to  work                                                              
harder,  which is  what the  exit exam  does, the  state needs  to                                                              
provide  resources  and  different  types of  instruction  in  the                                                              
beginning,  to  reach  students  who aren't  performing  at  their                                                              
She said  she had  worked with  many families  that have  disabled                                                              
kids and  has seen  a child  in eleventh  grade actually  learn to                                                              
read  in two years,  but it  took 6  hours per  day of  one-on-one                                                              
tutoring. That isn't  realistic in a public school.  GCDSE has the                                                              
opportunity  each year to  sponsor students  with disabilities  to                                                              
work  in their  office  for a  day, to  see  what they  do and  to                                                              
observe  individuals  with  disabilities   being  successful.  One                                                              
young  man they sponsored  did everything  a  person could  ask to                                                              
earn a scholarship;  he volunteered at the Boys'  And Girls' Club;                                                              
he took all of  the regular education classes, even  though he has                                                              
a significant  learning disability.  He earned  a scholarship  but                                                              
is going to lose it because he can't pass the exit exam.                                                                        
8:24:29 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER  agreed that  the state does  a real  disservice to                                                              
kids in  that situation,  who have  worked hard  for twelve  years                                                              
and end up with a certificate rather than a diploma.                                                                            
8:25:02 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS  thanked Ms. Holt  for her testimony and  asked if                                                              
the Governor's  Council has  arrived at  any recommendations  they                                                              
would  be willing  to put  forth. He  said he  also believes  they                                                              
need to be  testing to determine  where kids are as they  go along                                                              
and  whether  remediation  is  needed,  rather  than  waiting  and                                                              
pouring  resources  in at  the  end,  when  the efforts  are  less                                                              
likely to be successful.                                                                                                        
MS.  HOLT  said,   from  talking  with  various   members  of  the                                                              
Governor's Council, she  has come to believe that there  is no one                                                              
system  that  is  going  to  work   across  all  communities.  She                                                              
conjectured  that   they  might  have   to  start  with   a  basic                                                              
curriculum and, if  that isn't working for an  individual student,                                                              
do an  assessment of  that child's needs  and use the  information                                                              
to  create a  data-driven  program  for that  individual.  Experts                                                              
around the nation who have tried to implement this type of data-                                                                
driven instruction,  say that each  school really needs  to choose                                                              
a system  that will work  for it. One  state provides  the schools                                                              
with guidelines  and resources but  holds each school  accountable                                                              
to increase  students' reading  skills. She  said she  thinks that                                                              
is similar to what Les Morse is working on in his pilot program.                                                                
She  closed  by  saying  that  Alaska  shouldn't  have  to  create                                                              
anything new;  there are a  lot of resources  out there  to choose                                                              
8:28:02 AM                                                                                                                    
DEBORAH  KITELINGER,   Governor's  Council  on   Disabilities  and                                                              
Special Education,  North Pole, Alaska, said she is  the mother of                                                              
nine  children,  two  of  whom  have  learning  disabilities.  Her                                                              
eldest is 19 and  has gone through the exit exam  process; it took                                                              
him six tries  and an additional  year of high school  to pass it.                                                              
When he  graduated, he had  30 credits and  a GPA of 3.24.  He had                                                              
the grades;  he had  the credits;  but he  had difficulty  passing                                                              
the writing  and math  portions of  the exam  due to dyslexia.  He                                                              
has more than a  basic skill-set to go out into  the workplace. He                                                              
has held  three jobs  since he  was 16  years old  and all  of his                                                              
employers  have   told  her  they   are  very  pleased   with  his                                                              
performance.  It  is  amazing  to   her  that  had  he  been  less                                                              
determined, he  would never have  gotten his diploma.  Her 10-year                                                              
old has cognitive  impairments that make it unlikely  he will ever                                                              
pass the exit  exam, and she fears  the impact of his  failure may                                                              
be  devastating. It  is not  just  her children  she is  concerned                                                              
about however;  many kids give  up before  they make it  past this                                                              
hurdle.  She  is on-board  with  testing,  but believes  the  test                                                              
should not  be tied  to getting  a diploma.  She would  rather see                                                              
them adopt something like the WorkKeys.                                                                                         
8:32:25 AM                                                                                                                    
JULIE  BROYLES, Governor's  Council  on Disabilities  and  Special                                                              
Education, Anchorage,  Alaska, said she  is the product  of Alaska                                                              
public  schools   and  universities   and  the  mother   of  three                                                              
children; the  oldest has Down syndrome.  She was speaking  to the                                                              
committee  however, as  a high  school  special education  teacher                                                              
who teaches students  with learning disabilities,  autism spectrum                                                              
disorder, cognitive  impairments,  emotional disorders  and visual                                                              
impairments such  as ADD and ADHD [attention  deficit disorder and                                                              
attention deficit  hyperactive disorder].  These students  qualify                                                              
for  special education  services  because they  are  at least  two                                                              
grade-levels below their peers in one or more academic areas.                                                                   
She gave  an account of a  tenth-grade student in her  high school                                                              
special  education reading  class  who was  reading  at the  fifth                                                              
grade  level. He  could read  the  newspapers, most  of which  are                                                              
written  at   the  fifth-grade   level;  he   could  read   a  job                                                              
application;  he  could apply  for  a job  by  filling  out a  job                                                              
application. His  testing record indicated  that he was  far below                                                              
proficient  on every  benchmark  throughout his  school career  to                                                              
that  point, but  what  those tests  didn't  show is  that he  was                                                              
progressing  all  of  those  years.  He was  simply  not  able  to                                                              
progress at  the same level as  his non-disabled peers.  For every                                                              
test, the  student was provided  with testing accommodations  such                                                              
as  taking   the  test  in   a  separate  location   with  minimal                                                              
distractions, having  the instructions read to him,  being allowed                                                              
to  take frequent  breaks and  cetera.  When the  student did  not                                                              
pass the  reading tests  he was  placed in  an additional  reading                                                              
class.  When he  fails  to  pass next  year  he might  be  offered                                                              
another reading class,  one that is designed strictly  to help him                                                              
pass  the HSGQE.  It goes  against  everything she  knows of  good                                                              
teaching practices,  teaching with  the sole intention  of passing                                                              
a  test. When  the  student  fails again  he  might  be offered  a                                                              
modified   exit   exam.  A   modified   test  means   the   person                                                              
administering the  test reads the directions and  questions on the                                                              
reading test to  the student. He might pass, but  he will not have                                                              
gained four or five years of reading levels.                                                                                    
MS. BROYLES  also spoke  about a  twelfth grader  with an  average                                                              
cognitive  ability  and  severe  dyslexia,  who  cannot  pass  the                                                              
writing test.  He has  been receiving  special education  services                                                              
since  first  grade;  in  high  school  he  takes  mostly  general                                                              
education  classes.   He  is  hard-working  and   turns  in  every                                                              
assignment, but  his Standards Based Assessment (SBA)  scores have                                                              
always been  far below  the proficient range.  He passed  the math                                                              
test on his  first try, but  failed the HSGQE reading  and writing                                                              
tests.  In his  junior  year  he took  a  HSGQE writing  class  to                                                              
practice writing  the kind  of responses that  are most  likely to                                                              
earn  enough  points  for  a passing  grade.  She  applied  for  a                                                              
modified  HSGQE that  allowed him  to  use a  word processor  with                                                              
spell  check and  grammar check  during the  test. If  he were  to                                                              
fail  again she  would apply  for  the modified  HSGQE with  voice                                                              
recognition  software   as  well.  This  student   not  only  lost                                                              
valuable instruction  time to the  testing days, he missed  out on                                                              
opportunities to take  classes that might be more  relevant to his                                                              
interests and  possible career options.  Testing students  at what                                                              
is  often  the  end of  their  academic  careers,  especially  for                                                              
students  with disabilities,  does not improve  their learning  or                                                              
increase the likelihood  that they will stay in  school and pursue                                                              
a postsecondary  education. On behalf  of her students,  she asked                                                              
the   committee  to   support  the   repeal  of   the  exit   exam                                                              
8:39:45 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER  asked  Ms.  Broyles  where  she  teaches  special                                                              
MS. BROYLES replied that she teaches in Anchorage.                                                                              
8:40:01 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS  asked if Ms. Broyles  believes the state  has the                                                              
wherewithal  in  place now  to  increase  the abilities  of  those                                                              
disabled  kids to  their maximum  potential,  but that  it is  not                                                              
placing the right emphasis on it or starting early enough.                                                                      
MS. BROYLES  responded no, not as  long as it is spending  so much                                                              
money,  time and  energy on  this  test. She  analogized that  she                                                              
wouldn't  want someone to  build her  a house  and wait  until the                                                              
week  before inspection  to determine  whether  the foundation  is                                                              
strong enough to support the structure.                                                                                         
CO-CHAIR THOMAS  asked if she believes  the state would  be better                                                              
off if it redirected those resources.                                                                                           
MS. BROYLES answered "Yes."                                                                                                     
8:41:17 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS  asked if  she could  support end-of-course  exams                                                              
instead of the high-stakes exit exam.                                                                                           
MS  BROYLES said  it is  more valuable  for teachers  to know  how                                                              
kids  are   doing  at   the  moment  in   order  to   guide  their                                                              
instruction.  As  a parent,  early  assessments to  determine  her                                                              
children's  strengths  and  how  those align  to  various  careers                                                              
would help her to guide their course work.                                                                                      
8:42:30 AM                                                                                                                    
LAUREL VORACHEK,  Executive Director,  Assessment and  Evaluation,                                                              
Anchorage School  District, said  the school district  supports SB
109.  They are  struggling with  managing and  integrating all  of                                                              
the mandated  assessments into their  instruction. If  they cannot                                                              
be  integrated into  instruction,  they have  no  meaning for  the                                                              
student,  the family  or the  educational process.  Some of  these                                                              
exams  currently  include  the HSGQE,  the  re-tested  HSGQE,  the                                                              
Terra Nova, the  National Assessment of Educational  Progress, the                                                              
English    Language    Proficiency   Assessment,    and    Revised                                                              
Developmental  Profile.  All  of  these  are  state  or  federally                                                              
mandated assessments.                                                                                                           
In response  to the  committee's comments  regarding the  need for                                                              
interventions  and assessments  early on,  she said the  Anchorage                                                              
School  District  has  its  own  assessments  that  it  feels  are                                                              
absolutely  necessary  to  measure   progress  toward  mastery  of                                                              
standards  and  individual student  progress  on  curriculum-based                                                              
measures.  These   are  by  far  the  most   important  assessment                                                              
measures  because  they  can  occur   during  instruction,  giving                                                              
educators the  ability to  adjust instruction  based on  the data.                                                              
They are working  on how to set up that system  district-wide, but                                                              
it is  difficult to  manage that  in addition  to everything  else                                                              
that  is required.  The  SBAs and  HSGQE  are not  instructionally                                                              
sensitive  enough to  really intervene  at  various points  during                                                              
the  year; they  need  more  than the  one  data point  the  SBA's                                                              
currently give  them. The WIN  Curriculum and WorkKeys  Assessment                                                              
have been  added for  next year  so there  is significant  cost to                                                              
the  state  in  managing  additional  assessments,  especially  if                                                              
districts integrate them into their instruction.                                                                                
MS.  VORACHEK said  her  response to  why  the legislature  should                                                              
repeal the  HSGQE is that it  is outside of the  NCLB requirement,                                                              
and is an essential,  basic skills test. On one end,  it often has                                                              
an   unintended   consequence   that   educators   have   observed                                                              
repeatedly,  which is  that many  students and  parents set  their                                                              
sights  only  toward  passing  the  HSGQE  and  not  toward  being                                                              
college  and  work-ready.  Once  students have  passed  all  three                                                              
parts,  it can  become a  stumbling block  to encouraging  higher-                                                              
level course  work. On the other  end, students who  have learning                                                              
difficulties  have to  focus their  entire high  school career  on                                                              
passing that exit  exam and really do not have  the opportunity to                                                              
participate  in   some  of  the  work-force   development  courses                                                              
The  High School  Graduation  Qualifying  Exam has  absolutely  no                                                              
meaning beyond  the state  of Alaska  and provides no  information                                                              
on college or work-readiness.                                                                                                   
MS.  VORACHECK  said that  next  year  they  will be  required  to                                                              
administer  the  WorkKeys  for all  eleventh  graders.  This  came                                                              
about  from  the  work of  the  previous  Commissioner  of  Labor.                                                              
Unlike   the  HSGQE,   the  WorkKeys   assessment  is   recognized                                                              
nationwide,  uses   a  common   language  between  educators   and                                                              
employers, and provides  information to students  on their college                                                              
and  work-readiness which  can motivate  them  to continue  taking                                                              
courses  to  improve their  skills  and  fill  the gaps  in  their                                                              
8:47:26 AM                                                                                                                    
WorkKeys allows  students to see  how their skills compare  to the                                                              
skills  necessary to  enter the  work force.  One of the  critical                                                              
elements  of  education  is  making it  meaningful  and  real  for                                                              
students.  WorkKeys  has  the  ability  to do  that.  It  provides                                                              
valuable  information for  course planning  and students  can earn                                                              
certificates  through  WorkKeys  that are  recognized  in  several                                                              
industries throughout the country.                                                                                              
MS. VORACHEK  said people frequently  ask what the  HSGQE measures                                                              
as compared  to the  WorkKeys. ACT  Incorporated's profilers  have                                                              
profiled  every job  in the country  and identified  that  the top                                                              
three   skills  necessary   for  work   readiness  are:   locating                                                              
information,  reading for  information,  and applied  mathematics.                                                              
Locating  information  is  an  absolutely  critical  skill  in  85                                                              
percent of  the jobs they  profiled, in  81 percent it  is reading                                                              
for  information, and  in 75  percent it  is applied  mathematics.                                                              
Writing is  critical in only  17 percent  of jobs; if  an employer                                                              
wants information  about a student's  writing ability  however, it                                                              
can be found in the tenth grade SBA scores.                                                                                     
If  the  state's  goal  is  to   ensure  that  students  have  the                                                              
essential  skills  for  entry-level  jobs, which  was  the  intent                                                              
behind  the HSGQE  legislation,  WorkKeys  provides that.  Another                                                              
advantage  of  using  WorkKeys  is  that  it  also  provides  some                                                              
indicators  of  college  readiness.  ACT has  done  a  statistical                                                              
concordance  that shows  the comparability  of the  ACT® test  and                                                              
WorkKeys and  has found that a  level 5 in applied  mathematics on                                                              
WorkKeys indicates  a student  is on track  to meet  the readiness                                                              
benchmarks in reading and mathematics on the ACT®.                                                                              
She said  the Anchorage School  District would like  the committee                                                              
to look  at the  impact and  cost of all  mandated assessments  as                                                              
they  consider  SB  109  and  perhaps  consider  a  differentiated                                                              
diploma  system.  If  the  legislature  is  going  to  mandate  an                                                              
assessment,  she  asked  that  it  be  one  that  provides  useful                                                              
information  for   course  planning  and  provides   a  connection                                                              
educators  can use  to motivate  students  to pursue  higher-level                                                              
course  work. In  summary, she  reiterated  that Anchorage  School                                                              
District  supports SB  109 to  repeal the  High School  Qualifying                                                              
Exit   Exam  and   thanked  the   Education   Committee  for   the                                                              
opportunity to testify.                                                                                                         
8:51:15 AM                                                                                                                    
ALANA  GREER,  Homer,  Alaska,   said  she  is  the  parent  of  a                                                              
learning-disabled  high school student.  For the young  people she                                                              
knows, it  seems the  HSGQE is  either a  no-brainer they  pass as                                                              
sophomores, or a  punitive thing that completely  disheartens them                                                              
and turns them off from education.                                                                                              
She  said   the  Individualized   Education  Program   (IEP)  Team                                                              
meetings  she  has  attended  since  implementation  of  the  High                                                              
School Qualifying  Exit Exam have been distracted  from giving her                                                              
son skills that  will actually help him in his  life; they focused                                                              
instead on  how to give  him the accommodations  he would  need to                                                              
pass this test.  Her son is taking welding now and  doing great on                                                              
his  jobs;  he  hasn't  missed   a  day  of  school  and  isn't  a                                                              
troublemaker. He  wants to  get on with  his life. He  isn't going                                                              
to stay  in school until  he's 21 and needs  to plan, but  he took                                                              
the test in the  fall and didn't have the results  until December.                                                              
That was a problem.                                                                                                             
They were  fortunate that  he did  pass the test  and will  get to                                                              
graduate  with  his friends  and  peers. When  he  goes  to get  a                                                              
janitorial job  at the hospital,  they will know what  his diploma                                                              
is;  it's  not  a certificate  of  attendance  that  doesn't  mean                                                              
anything to anybody.                                                                                                            
MS.  GREER  said  there  is  another   problem  in  her  community                                                              
regarding  the  test.  It  has   to  do  with  the  "old-believer"                                                              
community,   another   high-risk   population  for   high   school                                                              
graduation.  This is  a  closed society  of  people who  emigrated                                                              
from  Russia and  are committed  to keeping  their old  traditions                                                              
alive. The young  girls marry early and it has been  a struggle to                                                              
get them through  to graduation. Strides are being  made, but this                                                              
year the  test falls  on a holy  day and  those children  won't be                                                              
able to  attend. She was  told that they  have contacted  the ACLU                                                              
about it. This is just one more reason to repeal the test.                                                                      
8:56:38 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS  asked if  she  is  supportive  of some  sort  of                                                              
differentiated diploma system.                                                                                                  
MS.  GREER  replied  "No."  She  doesn't  think  a  differentiated                                                              
diploma will  mean anything different  out in the real  world than                                                              
a  certificate  of  attendance  or  a  high  school  diploma.  She                                                              
believes Alaska  already has  a strong system  in place.  When she                                                              
graduated  and  when  her  parent's  graduated,  a  diploma  meant                                                              
something.  She  speculated that  maybe  there are  some  problems                                                              
with  the system;  maybe  there has  been  grade inflation;  maybe                                                              
teachers are burnt  out or principals aren't spending  the time to                                                              
walk  through classrooms  and see  what is  going on.  They had  a                                                              
system  in place  when  she  was in  high  school  though, and  it                                                              
seemed to work.  She doesn't quite understand why  the state feels                                                              
it is necessary to keep testing and testing.                                                                                    
MS.  GREER  said   she  isn't  excited  about   the  WorkKeys  for                                                              
learning-disabled  kids; WorkKeys is  building a market  niche and                                                              
should be very  excited about the  money it will make  for them. A                                                              
kid who  wants to  go to  beauty school  to be  a nail  technician                                                              
doesn't need to  take the WorkKeys. A kid who wants  to weld might                                                              
need it, but that  decision should be made by the  kids with their                                                              
school  counselors  and teachers;  it  should  not  be up  to  the                                                              
state. Kids  decide if  they want  to go to  college and  take the                                                              
SAT  and the  ACT®;  let them  decide  if they  want  to take  the                                                              
WorkKeys, she said; give them some control over their own lives.                                                                
8:59:39 AM                                                                                                                    
ERIC WADE,  LINKS Matsu  Parent Resource  Center, Palmer,  Alaska,                                                              
said LINKS  provides training  opportunities and advocacy  support                                                              
for parents  of children  with disabilities.  He is testifying  in                                                              
favor of  SB 109; the exit  exam has been controversial  since its                                                              
passage and  its effectiveness is  doubtful. LINKS believes  it is                                                              
time for this testing requirement to be removed.                                                                                
MR. WADE  said his particular concern  regarding the exit  exam is                                                              
that  the drop-out  rate  among  Alaska's students  has  increased                                                              
since  its  implementation  and  has  not  rebounded  to  pre-exam                                                              
levels.  Many students  drop out  in  the ninth  and tenth  grade.                                                              
These  are  generally  students  who  reach  high  school  already                                                              
significantly  behind. For  some, it  is due  to their home  life;                                                              
for some it is  because of a disability; perhaps  some just didn't                                                              
try very hard. Regardless  of the reasons, the exit  exam looms in                                                              
front of  them and, either because  they realize they  won't pass,                                                              
or because they  fail it in tenth grade, they drop  out of school.                                                              
Before implementation  of the exam,  some of these  students would                                                              
have hung in  there, continued to learn and  eventually graduated.                                                              
They  would have  gone  to work  and learned  many  of the  skills                                                              
essential  to  their  positions  on  the  job.  As  an  aside,  he                                                              
supposed  that  many  of  the  people   listening  today  probably                                                              
learned how to prepare  and give presentations on the  job. He has                                                              
spoken to  many carpenters who told  him that they  really learned                                                              
fractions and  geometry on the job.  He ventured that most  of the                                                              
people  attending   the  hearing   know  someone  who   fits  that                                                              
description;  they  may  not  have   been  the  best  high  school                                                              
students, but  did get  a diploma and  are functioning  quite well                                                              
in  our society.  Many  students today  however,  can't get  those                                                              
jobs because  they  don't have a  diploma. The  playing field  has                                                              
changed  since the  exit exam.  He said  LINKS supports  solutions                                                              
that  improve  academic  achievement   and  ways  to  assess  that                                                              
achievement, but  the high-stakes exam  is too costly  to students                                                              
and families. They  do not support a differential  diploma system.                                                              
He encouraged the legislature to remove the exit exam.                                                                          
9:03:14 AM                                                                                                                    
JANET LONG, Anchorage  Alaska, thanked Chair Davis  for sponsoring                                                              
SB  109. She  is  the  parent of  a  child  with a  mild  learning                                                              
disability,   a   special   education   teacher   and   transition                                                              
coordinator  for students  with  special needs.  She is  concerned                                                              
not  only for  the children  with  disabilities who  have to  face                                                              
this test,  but for the  many kids at  higher levels who  say they                                                              
don't  have  to  take  certain  courses  because  they've  already                                                              
passed the exam.                                                                                                                
She asserted  that the  state's money would  be more  wisely spent                                                              
on early  intervention instead of  supporting remediation  and re-                                                              
testing. She  thanked Governor Parnell  for supporting  removal of                                                              
this  exam. She  particularly  liked his  memo  to the  Governor's                                                              
Council  on Disabilities  and  Special  Education  about the  $1.3                                                              
million savings  possible in re-testing costs alone.  Huge amounts                                                              
of instructional  time are  being lost to  efforts to  ensure that                                                              
students will  pass this exam. She  agreed with Ms.  Vorachek that                                                              
testing  can be done  more expediently  in Homer  or in  Anchorage                                                              
using district assessments.                                                                                                     
MS. LONG  said her  research indicates  that  there are 26  states                                                              
that test and a  greater number of states and  territories that do                                                              
not.  She   was  also   concerned  that   Alaska  does   not  have                                                              
reciprocity with  the states that do test; she  doesn't understand                                                              
that. Having such  a transient population in Alaska  makes it very                                                              
difficult for many of those students.                                                                                           
In conclusion,  she thanked Senator  Davis again for her  work and                                                              
thanked  Senator Bundy  for  helping to  tighten  up teaching  and                                                              
accountability  for  staff  and  students.  She  said  she  thinks                                                              
Alaska is moving  in a good direction. She supports  repealing the                                                              
HSGQE requirement,  but if the state decides to  continue with the                                                              
existing  test,  she  would  support   a  move  to  differentiated                                                              
9:10:08 AM                                                                                                                    
JENNIFER  DOUNAY  ZINTH,  Education   Commission  of  the  States,                                                              
Denver,  Colorado,  joined  the meeting  via  teleconference.  She                                                              
said  she  would   like  to  respond  to  some   of  the  previous                                                              
testimony,  then  entertain  questions   from  the  committee  and                                                              
provide some comments, followed by a national overview.                                                                         
She  provided  copies  of  a  presentation   she  prepared  for  a                                                              
legislative  committee in Oklahoma.  Oklahoma is  one of  the last                                                              
states to  have exit exam  policy on the  books which has  not yet                                                              
gone  into effect;  the first  class  subject to  their exit  exam                                                              
requirement will  be the  class of 2012.  They established  a task                                                              
force to  look at their  high school  testing policy  and national                                                              
trends  in  terms of  both  exit  exams and  end-of-course  exams.                                                              
Oklahoma's  legislation  calls for  their  end-of-course exams  to                                                              
become exit exams effective in 2012.                                                                                            
For  clarification,  she said,  the  Education Commission  of  the                                                              
States  is a  non-partisan  organization. She  said  she will  not                                                              
speak for  or against Alaska's high  school exam but  will provide                                                              
a  perspective  on  what  other  states  are  doing  and  identify                                                              
potential avenues for the state to consider.                                                                                    
Referring to previous  testimony that tenth and  eleventh grade is                                                              
too late  to begin  dealing with  gaps in  students' learning  and                                                              
that they  were probably struggling  for years before,  Ms. Dounay                                                              
absolutely agreed.  She asked if  Alaska has done any  analyses to                                                              
consider alignment  between the tenth grade  graduation qualifying                                                              
exam  and   earlier  assessments,   as  some  other   states  have                                                              
identified misalignments from grade-level to grade-level.                                                                       
9:12:54 AM                                                                                                                    
She opined  that one avenue  Alaska might  want to consider  - and                                                              
one that is a  growing trend in other states -  is a transition to                                                              
end-of-course  exams. Some  states  have made  them mandatory  for                                                              
high school  graduation. If  a student chooses  to take  Algebra I                                                              
or Algebra  II, then  there is an  end-of-course exam  the student                                                              
should  be able to  pass upon  completing the  course. A  positive                                                              
thing about  end-of-course exams  is that  students all  know that                                                              
what is  being taught  on a day-to-day  basis is  what will  be on                                                              
the test  at the  end of the  year. In  addition, some  states are                                                              
making diagnostic  tools available  to teachers to  identify where                                                              
students are  struggling during the  school year so  educators can                                                              
address  those long  before  they get  to  the end  of the  school                                                              
MS.  DOUNAY continued  that  there are  many  states with  end-of-                                                              
course  exams  and on-line  tools  to  help teachers  align  their                                                              
instruction  with the year-end  expectations. It  is one  thing to                                                              
put a standard out  there; but it is extremely  helpful to provide                                                              
some model classroom  activities that are aligned  to the standard                                                              
to assist teachers in meeting it.                                                                                               
Regardless of whether  Alaska keeps the HSGQE, it is  good for the                                                              
state to  consider some areas  of state  policy that ECS  has done                                                              
research  on.  One   is  adolescent  literacy.  Among   states  in                                                              
general,  there is a  huge focus  on literacy  in grades  K-3; but                                                              
once students get  past third grade there seems to  be an unspoken                                                              
assumption that  all of them know  how to read. That  is certainly                                                              
not the  case. A growing  number of  states have adopted  policies                                                              
to  make  sure  that  teachers who  are  certified  for  grades  4                                                              
through 12  have the skills  they need  to help students  along in                                                              
literacy and  that there are  out-of-classroom supports  for those                                                              
students. Another  is remediation at  the high school  level: What                                                              
sort  of  triggers are  in  place  to identify  students  who  are                                                              
struggling in  English, math or  other subjects? Do  the districts                                                              
receive funding  for providing remediation? Are  students required                                                              
to  attend,  or  is  it  optional?   Is  the  remediation  program                                                              
evaluated by the state or by someone else?                                                                                      
9:16:14 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  DOUNAY said  ECS is  seeing a  lot of  activity in  formative                                                              
assessments  during  the  school  year.  States  often  use  these                                                              
assessments in the  early years to make sure kids  are on track in                                                              
reading  and math;  but for  whatever  reason, they  seem to  fall                                                              
away  after  students  enter  middle  school  or  high  school.  A                                                              
growing  number of  states are  adopting policies  to ensure  that                                                              
there are tools  in place to help teachers identify  student needs                                                              
and that  they have  the resources to  address those  needs during                                                              
the school year.                                                                                                                
She asked if  the committee members have any  particular questions                                                              
about what other states are doing.                                                                                              
9:17:04 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER asked  if the trend is to do away  with high school                                                              
exit exams or for more states to require high school exit exams.                                                                
MS. DOUNAY  replied that the  trend now  is for states  to require                                                              
exit  exams. With  the  graduating  class of  2010,  there are  25                                                              
states  that  already  have  a   requirement  in  place  including                                                              
Arkansas  and Oklahoma,  where the  requirement  goes into  effect                                                              
with  the  graduating  class  of  2012.  Pennsylvania  and  Oregon                                                              
recently  adopted  policies  to  require  an exit  exam,  but  the                                                              
Pennsylvania  policy  adopted by  the  state  board still  has  to                                                              
undergo  legislative approval,  and in  Oregon implementation  has                                                              
been delayed due to budgetary concerns.                                                                                         
9:18:23 AM                                                                                                                    
She underscored  that end-of-course  exams, regardless  of whether                                                              
or  not  they  serve  as  exit  exams,  are  more  instructionally                                                              
sensitive than  is the HSGQE.  She also emphasized  the importance                                                              
of keeping  relevance in  the high  school curriculum  so students                                                              
realize that what  they are learning in the classroom  has meaning                                                              
for  what they  are going  to do  after high  school; certainly  a                                                              
Career and  Technical Education  (CTE) is one  way to  ensure that                                                              
relevance.  She  added  that  High  School  testing  need  not  be                                                              
mutually  exclusive from  Career  and Technical  Education;  there                                                              
are  examples toward  the end  of her  presentation to  illustrate                                                              
9:27:58 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. DOUNAY  advised that  Virginia requires  that all  students to                                                              
complete  six end-of-course  exams: two  in English,  one each  in                                                              
math, science and  social studies and one in  an elective subject.                                                              
The   state  board   is  required   by   legislation  to   approve                                                              
assessments they  believe have  the same level  of content  in CTE                                                              
areas. For  example, if a  student takes a drafting  certification                                                              
course and the  level of math required to obtain  certification is                                                              
equal  to the  level  of  math that  would  be  in an  Algebra  or                                                              
Geometry  end-of-course  exam,  the  state  board  is  allowed  to                                                              
approve  that  as a  substitute  for  the traditional  Algebra  or                                                              
Geometry  end-of-course   exam.  The  state  created   a  separate                                                              
division within  the Department  of Education to  assist districts                                                              
in integrating  the content  standards into  CTE course  offerings                                                              
so that these  are not held  to watered-down standards.  As one of                                                              
the  previous speakers  mentioned,  Virginia does  have very  good                                                              
high school standards.                                                                                                          
She   confirmed   that   there   are  more   states   looking   at                                                              
differentiated  diploma  systems,  but  said  a  few  states  have                                                              
actually moved away  from differentiated diplomas  and now require                                                              
all  students to  take a  common core  curriculum, believing  that                                                              
putting   students  on   different   tracks   was  setting   lower                                                              
expectations  for  certain  students.   Students  might  not  have                                                              
realized  that  they were  being  held  to lower  expectations  by                                                              
selecting  one   or  another  track.   Still  other   states  that                                                              
currently  have  a one-track  system  are  exploring two  or  more                                                              
diploma  tracks because  they fear  that holding  all students  to                                                              
the same expectation is not working for some students.                                                                          
9:21:41 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. DOUNAY said  any state that adopts an exit  exam policy should                                                              
be clear about the  purpose for the exit exam.  If Alaska believes                                                              
the purpose  of the  competency exam  is being  met by  some other                                                              
assessment,  such as WorkKeys,  then repealing  the exit  exam may                                                              
be a  step in the  right direction. By  and large,  any discussion                                                              
of high school  level assessments needs  to take the state  to the                                                              
larger question  of what  it wants  students to  know and  do once                                                              
they  complete  a diploma  and  whether  they are  being  prepared                                                              
properly. Pass  scores on high  school level exams,  regardless of                                                              
whether they  are exit exams,  should reflect these  expectations.                                                              
If students are  getting out of school and finding  that they have                                                              
to  take  remedial   courses  when  they  enter   college;  or  if                                                              
employers  are   saying  that  the  graduates  they   hire  aren't                                                              
prepared for  what the employer needs  them to do when  they enter                                                              
the work  force, then  the high school  level curriculum,  as well                                                              
as the assessments need to be re-evaluated.                                                                                     
MS. DOUNAY indicated  that slide 15 of her presentation  shows why                                                              
other states  have implemented  exams. One  of the most  important                                                              
bullets  on that  slide  is the  third  one "sets  same  statewide                                                              
expectation for  all students."  She reflected that  sometimes the                                                              
grade students get  in a class is not reflective  of how much they                                                              
learned.  The exit  exam states  what the student  is expected  to                                                              
achieve  and   establishes  the   common  statewide   measure  for                                                              
demonstration of that level of achievement.                                                                                     
Speaking briefly  to what the  research says regarding  the impact                                                              
on  students of  exit exams,  she  admitted that  the research  is                                                              
truly mixed. Some  studies indicate that, although there  may be a                                                              
higher  initial failure  rate  among students  with  disabilities,                                                              
after such  students take the  exit exam  two or more  times, they                                                              
tend  to pass  it at  nearly the  same rate  as regular  education                                                              
students.  Other  studies  say  achievement  as  measured  by  the                                                              
National  Assessment   on  Educational  Progress   or  some  other                                                              
measure, is lower  in states that have exit exams.  So there is no                                                              
one conclusion in  terms of whether student achievement  is better                                                              
or worse if there is an exit exam.                                                                                              
Finally,  speaking to  a few  trends, Ms.  Dounay reiterated  that                                                              
states are not  dropping exit exams but are  largely transitioning                                                              
from traditional  exit exams  to end-of-course  exams and  seeking                                                              
to  better align  their  high  school assessments  with  post-high                                                              
school expectations.  In Texas, which is one of  the states moving                                                              
away from  an exit exam to  end-of-course exams  scattered through                                                              
grades  nine  through  eleven, students  who  get  specific  items                                                              
correct  on the reading  or math  end-of-course  exams have  met a                                                              
benchmark for  college placement and  are not required to  sit for                                                              
the college  placement exam should  they enter a  four-year public                                                              
institution  in  the  state  of Texas.  Other  states  are  taking                                                              
slightly  different avenues  to embed some  sort of  college-ready                                                              
measure into high school exit exams.                                                                                            
9:26:07 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER asked where Ms. Dounay is calling from.                                                                          
MS. DOUNAY answered "Denver."                                                                                                   
9:26:24 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS said  he is interested in the "why"  of exit exams                                                              
and  what  the critics  say,  which  seems  to  be much  like  the                                                              
testimony they  heard today. He  pointed out that the  result "set                                                              
same  statewide expectation  for  all students"  sounds good,  but                                                              
not  all students  are  the same,  and  that is  the  meat of  the                                                              
problem.  He asked  if Ms. Dounay  has information  on what  other                                                              
states  have  done to  modify  their  exit  exams to  create  some                                                              
incentive for parents and students.                                                                                             
9:27:58 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. DOUNAY  asked Co-Chair  Thomas if by  "modify" he  means other                                                              
ways for  a student  to demonstrate  proficiency  if he fails  the                                                              
first time, rather than taking the traditional exit exam again.                                                                 
CO-CHAIR  THOMAS  clarified  that  he wants  to  know  what  other                                                              
states are  doing earlier, when  they recognize that  students are                                                              
MS. DOUNAY  responded that Virginia  is a very good  example. They                                                              
have  adopted  a  program  integrating   pre-algebra  and  algebra                                                              
concepts  into  the  middle  school   curriculum.  They  are  also                                                              
providing  professional development  and recertification  programs                                                              
for teachers if  their preparation was not as  algebra-driven as a                                                              
K-8  certification. They've  seen  significant  success with  this                                                              
program.  She offered  to  provide  a link  to  a site  with  more                                                              
information on this eighth-grade algebra program.                                                                               
CO-CHAIR THOMAS said  he would appreciate that.  He commented that                                                              
the amount  of effort  a student  expends  is worth  a lot in  the                                                              
end,  particularly to  employers, and  asked if  anyone has  taken                                                              
that into consideration to somewhat flatten the curve.                                                                          
9:30:32 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. DOUNAY  said in some  states, if a  student fails the  exam on                                                              
the  first  try, the  alternate  avenue  is evaluation  of  course                                                              
grades.  ECS  identified  seven  states  that  allow  students  to                                                              
substitute  course work or  end-of-course  exam results for  areas                                                              
in which they failed  on the high school exit exam.  A student who                                                              
got an A  in math, for instance,  might be able to use  the course                                                              
grade  as   a  substitute.  In   a  different  seven   states,  an                                                              
alternative  is evaluation  of classroom  evidence.  If a  student                                                              
can  show  that  his  homework   assignments  and  other  projects                                                              
completed in  class meet the standard  the state is  expecting for                                                              
passage  of  that  section  of the  exit  exam,  the  student  can                                                              
substitute  that evidence.  Yet another seven  states allow  other                                                              
criteria  such as  remediation.  If a  student  fails the  English                                                              
section   but   regularly   attends   a   remedial   program   and                                                              
demonstrates  his  commitment,  then  that may  substitute  for  a                                                              
passing  score.   Some  other  states  may  accept   a  letter  of                                                              
recommendation or attendance records as a substitute.                                                                           
9:32:23 AM                                                                                                                    
MARK MITCHELL, a  science teacher in King Cove,  Alaska, testified                                                              
from  his eighth  grade classroom.  He  has been  teaching for  20                                                              
years, 10  of them  in rural  Alaska, and  believes that  the high                                                              
school graduation  exam is a necessary evil,  although he admitted                                                              
that it  causes a lot  of stress to  families and communities.  He                                                              
said the  main difference  he has  seen between  before and  after                                                              
the test  is that the  high school diploma  is now taken  as proof                                                              
of literacy,  and it wasn't  before. He stated  that he is  not in                                                              
favor of test.                                                                                                                  
In closing, he said  the HSGQE has served as a  positive influence                                                              
but it could be  much better than it is and requested  that if the                                                              
committee  repeals  the  test,  they  replace  it  with  something                                                              
9:35:07 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER  agreed that if they  eliminate the exit  exam they                                                              
do need to replace it with some sort of assessment.                                                                             
9:35:43 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID  KOHLER,  Department  Chair,   Special  Education  Services,                                                              
Service High  School, Anchorage, Alaska,  said he has been  in the                                                              
field of special  education for 32 years. He has  also worked as a                                                              
school  psychologist, teacher  and  administrator. He  said he  is                                                              
the  person  who  has  to  implement  the  HSGQE  and  make  daily                                                              
decisions  regarding  individual  students' education.  He  agreed                                                              
that  there needs  to be  an accountability  system that  includes                                                              
students with  special needs, to  ensure those students  get their                                                              
equal share of  resources; however, doing this at  the high school                                                              
level  is  simply   too  late.  A  great  deal   of  research  has                                                              
established  that addressing  academic difficulties  early is  the                                                              
best route  to future  academic success. It  is very  difficult to                                                              
close the education  gap by the time students get  to high school,                                                              
and  doing so  is  often in  direct  opposition  to an  individual                                                              
student's  needs and  motivation. Too  often, he  said, he  has to                                                              
make a  decision between classes  designed to help a  student pass                                                              
the HSGQE  and classes  designed to prepare  him for  life outside                                                              
of  high  school.  He noted  that  Service  High  School  requires                                                              
students to  get 22.5 credits in  very specific areas in  order to                                                              
get a diploma.                                                                                                                  
9:38:37 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. KOHLER  stated that students who  have not passed the  exam as                                                              
tenth  graders are  usually those  who don't  fit the  traditional                                                              
educational  model. Loading  them  up with  more reading,  writing                                                              
and math  classes often increases  the chance that they  will drop                                                              
out. He also  pointed out that,  if students don't pass  the HSGQE                                                              
as  tenth graders,  there are  classes available  in the  eleventh                                                              
and  twelfth  grades  to  support them.  Those  classes  start  in                                                              
August.  The  test  is  administered  during  the  first  week  in                                                              
October, but  students do not  get the  results of the  exam until                                                              
December. So from  the first week in October  until December, they                                                              
are taking  a class designed  to help them  pass the  exam without                                                              
knowing  whether they  have already  passed. These  are often  the                                                              
students  who are less  motivated  than others  and have had  less                                                              
success  in  high  school;  they  are spending  time  in  a  class                                                              
without  knowing whether  or not  they need  the information  they                                                              
are being taught.                                                                                                               
9:40:12 AM                                                                                                                    
Finally,  he  said that  in  making  a  decision about  this,  the                                                              
committee needs  to consider  their individual philosophies  about                                                              
education  and what  a  diploma actually  means.  The question  is                                                              
whether  a diploma  indicates a  certain level  of proficiency  in                                                              
reading,  writing or  math, or if  it means  preparation for  life                                                              
outside  of high school.  He reiterated  that  while he agrees  an                                                              
accountability system  is necessary, one that focuses  more on the                                                              
real-life needs of students would be more appropriate.                                                                          
9:40:52 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER said  he  is familiar  with  Mr. Kohler's  special                                                              
needs program  at Service High School  and thanked him  for all he                                                              
9:41:16 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS  referred  to  Jennifer  Dounay's  discussion  of                                                              
alignment between  the grades, in  which she implied that  in some                                                              
states  there is  a lower  bar set  in the  earlier grades,  which                                                              
jumps up  in high  school making  it much  harder for  students to                                                              
prepare. He asked Mr. Kohler if that has been his experience.                                                                   
9:41:46 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. KOHLER  said  he has no  statistics  on that  and is not  very                                                              
familiar with the  content of the Standards Based  Assessments for                                                              
the  lower levels,  but  it seems  from  his  own experience  that                                                              
there  is  a  pretty  strong  correlation  between  the  students'                                                              
performances on  the SBAs and on  the HSGQE, which  would indicate                                                              
that the skills are progressing.                                                                                                
9:42:40 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER closed  public testimony. He called  on Eddie Jeans                                                              
to speak for the administration.                                                                                                
9:43:36 AM                                                                                                                    
EDDIE  JEANS, Director  of School  Finance,  Alaska Department  of                                                              
Education  and  Early  Development,  Juneau, Alaska  said  he  has                                                              
delivered the  state Board of  Education's position on  this issue                                                              
to both of the  Co-Chairs' offices. The state board  had a lengthy                                                              
discussion  about  this issue  at  their  meeting in  January  and                                                              
voiced  many  of  the  same concerns  he  has  heard  today.  They                                                              
decided  they would  prefer to  keep the  exam in  place as  it is                                                              
today until  such time as an  alternative is presented  to replace                                                              
it. The  reason they  took this  position is that  the HSGQE  is a                                                              
very key  part of  the state's  accountability  system. It  is the                                                              
high-stakes  "hammer."  As  part  of  that  system,  there  is  an                                                              
expectation at  each grade-level; these  are aligned to  the state                                                              
standards, which  are aligned to  the Standards Based  Assessment.                                                              
They  start assessing  children  in third  grade, so  by the  time                                                              
they reach  high school  and the high  school qualifying  exam, it                                                              
should not  be a surprise  to anyone that  the child will  or will                                                              
not pass. He  asserted that end-of-course exams  would present the                                                              
same type of roadblock  as does the HSGQE. If students  don't pass                                                              
the end-of-course exams they will not get a diploma.                                                                            
MR. JEANS  agreed that  WorkKeys is an  excellent tool  to provide                                                              
information  about students'  abilities  in  reading, writing  and                                                              
mathematics,  but maintained  that  it is  just informational  and                                                              
the  existing   Standards  Based  Assessments  provide   the  same                                                              
information.  At this  point the  state board  would like  to keep                                                              
the  exit exam.  It  holds students  and  parents accountable;  it                                                              
holds  the  districts accountable;  it  also  holds the  state  of                                                              
Alaska  accountable. That  was made  very  clear in  the Moore  vs                                                              
State case.  Because of  that accountability,  the department  was                                                              
able to get  the support of  the legislature to intervene  in low-                                                              
performing districts.  He also pointed out that there  has been an                                                              
increase in the number of graduates since 2005.                                                                                 
9:48:08 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER said  he disagrees  with Mr.  Jeans regarding  the                                                              
high  school   exit  exam   versus  the   WorkKeys.  It   was  his                                                              
understanding that  if a student  fails one  part of the  HSGQE he                                                              
will not  get a diploma.  If a student  goes to school  all twelve                                                              
years, gets  a diploma  and then takes  the WorkKeys,  an employer                                                              
will know,  for instance, that  the student  is not good  at math.                                                              
He asked for Mr. Jeans' thoughts on that.                                                                                       
MR.  JEANS  agreed  with  the chairman's  analysis  but  said  the                                                              
question is whether  the goal is to have an  accountability system                                                              
or  to  inform  parents  and  children.   He  contended  that  the                                                              
WorkKeys  is  an excellent  source  of  information but  does  not                                                              
provide any guarantee  that a student has some  basic skills. That                                                              
is what  the high-stakes  test does;  it guarantees that  students                                                              
have basic skills  in reading, writing and mathematics.  It is not                                                              
a  tenth-grade  test;  it  is not  a  test  to  determine  whether                                                              
students are  ready to go  into college; it  is a test  to measure                                                              
basic  skills and  to  ensure employers  that  students can  read,                                                              
write,  and do  some basic  math.  It is  the only  hammer in  the                                                              
system to make sure students have met the state's goals.                                                                        
9:50:15 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  DAVIS  responded  that  the exit  exam  is  "the  hammer"                                                              
because it precludes  Alaska's students from graduating  from high                                                              
school with  a diploma.  It is the  only thing  on the  books that                                                              
allows  that to  happen. The  Department of  Education is  already                                                              
planning  to   implement  the  WorkKeys;   it  has   only  delayed                                                              
implementation  for  another  year.  She  said she  has  read  the                                                              
statement given  by the  Board of  Education after their  meeting,                                                              
which states that  they want to keep the exam in  place until they                                                              
find  out  what   is  going  to  happen  regarding   the  national                                                              
standards.   This  particular   bill   was   brought  before   the                                                              
legislature because  the state Board  of Education sent a  memo to                                                              
the Commissioner  of Education several years ago  saying the HSGQE                                                              
wasn't working  and needed  to be modified  or done away  with. No                                                              
one else  took any  action; they  couldn't decide  what to  do. SB
109  just repeals  it  effective  July 2012.  The  best thing  the                                                              
legislature  can do is  to do away  with this  test; the  state is                                                              
doing a  disservice to  its children. Passing  the exit  exam does                                                              
not  guarantee  employers  that  students are  skilled  for  those                                                              
jobs; it  does not. If students  don't pass this test,  they can't                                                              
go into the service;  they can't get into most  universities; many                                                              
options  are closed  to  them. There  are  no  alternatives to  it                                                              
except  for   those  pertaining  to  accommodations   for  special                                                              
education students; the state needs alternatives.                                                                               
She reiterated that the Board of Education itself said this                                                                     
isn't working and now, with a different group of people on the                                                                  
board, they are saying they want to keep it because it is the                                                                   
only thing in place to hold students accountable. She disagreed                                                                 
strongly. She reminded the assemblage that the Association of                                                                   
Alaska School Boards is in favor of repealing this requirement                                                                  
and many of the superintendants have come forth to express their                                                                
support. Every organization except the Board of Education wants                                                                 
it to be removed and the board wants to keep it "until when?"                                                                   
she asked.                                                                                                                      
9:54:07 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. JEANS replied  that they want to keep it in  place until a new                                                              
accountability  measure has  been  identified to  replace it.  The                                                              
high-stakes  nature of  the  high school  qualifying  exam is  the                                                              
glue that holds  the whole system together. Without  it, the state                                                              
might as  well go back to  "seat time" whereby, if  students spend                                                              
12 years  in school  they automatically get  a diploma.  The HSGQE                                                              
is  the  final  piece  and  it's  all  progressive,  he  insisted.                                                              
Schools  measure  students'  abilities  in  grades  3  through  8.                                                              
Districts should  be taking that information and  helping students                                                              
learn  to  read,  write,  and  compute  so at  the  end  of  their                                                              
educational  careers they  will be  able to pass  the high  school                                                              
qualifying exam.                                                                                                                
SENATOR  DAVIS acceded  that  they  should be  able  to pass;  but                                                              
Alaska has  thousands of  students who are  not passing  and never                                                              
will. She said  the state will continue  to test kids  in grades 3                                                              
through 8;  SB 109 does  not do away  with those assessments.  But                                                              
she was  amazed  that he would  refer  to this exam  as the  "glue                                                              
that   holds   the  system   together!"   When   the   legislature                                                              
implemented  the  exit exam,  they  thought  they were  doing  the                                                              
right thing  and it  did do some  good; but it  has not  done what                                                              
they intended  it to do. She added  that No Child Left  Behind was                                                              
not  in place  at that  time, and  NCLB will  continue to  provide                                                              
some accountability.                                                                                                            
9:56:29 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  JEANS  insisted  that  removing the  exit  exam  weakens  the                                                              
accountability system.                                                                                                          
SENATOR DAVIS  asked who  else agrees with  his position;  she has                                                              
heard no other testimony to support it.                                                                                         
9:57:19 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. JEANS  said he  believes the  state board's position  reflects                                                              
SENATOR DAVIS  countered that she  has read their position  and it                                                              
is not that strongly worded.                                                                                                    
9:57:39 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER  said it  appears the  committee needs  to continue                                                              
this discussion with the administration.                                                                                        
9:57:52 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS   asked  Mr.  Jeans  about  a   comment  made  in                                                              
testimony    that   drop-out    rates    have   increased    since                                                              
implementation  of  exam.  He  said  he would  like  to  see  some                                                              
specifics on  that. He was also  surprised to hear  testimony that                                                              
the  governor wants  to remove  the exam  and asked  Mr. Jeans  if                                                              
that is true.                                                                                                                   
Another  issue the  committee just  spent time  dealing with  in a                                                              
prior bill  is the fact  that so few  kids are finishing  college;                                                              
one of  the major responsibilities  of the  task force will  be to                                                              
find out  why. Now they are  talking about maybe going  to end-of-                                                              
course exams  instead of exit exams  and it seems to him  they are                                                              
essentially the  same thing. He  asked if Mr. Jeans  could comment                                                              
on that sometime in the near future.                                                                                            
9:59:23 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. JEANS said  he will follow-up with the governor  regarding the                                                              
comment  on  his  position.  He referred  the  committee  to  Eric                                                              
McCormick on the  question of drop-out rates. As  for remediation,                                                              
he is really looking  forward to the task force  this summer; that                                                              
is  something they  need  to talk  about and  he  thinks it  feeds                                                              
right  into  the governor's  proposed  scholarship  program.  That                                                              
program hopes  to increase  the expectations  of students  in high                                                              
school  so they are  better prepared  and more  successful  at the                                                              
university level.  Nevertheless, he does not see  the state moving                                                              
toward an exit exam that measures college readiness.                                                                            
CO-CHAIR  MEYER asked  Mr. Jeans  to join them  Monday to  discuss                                                              
this further. [SB 109 was held in committee.]                                                                                   
10:01:24 AM                                                                                                                   
There  being no  further business  to come  before the  committee,                                                              
Co-Chair Meyer adjourned the meeting at 10:01 p.m.                                                                              

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