Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/01/2010 08:00 AM Senate EDUCATION

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SB 237 Out of Committee
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
Moved SB 109 Out of Committee
            SB 109-REPEAL SECONDARY SCHOOL EXIT EXAM                                                                        
8:13:57 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS announced consideration of SB 109.                                                                              
8:14:44 AM                                                                                                                    
LES  MORSE,  Deputy  Commissioner, Department  of  Education  and                                                               
Early   Development  (DEED),   Juneau,  Alaska,   spoke  to   the                                                               
comprehensiveness  of  the  state's assessment  program  and  the                                                               
remediation requirement  under regulation  for students  who take                                                               
the  High School  Qualifying Exit  Exam (HSGQE).  He then  shared                                                               
some statistics on student attendance  since the exam has been in                                                               
He  stated  that testimony  heard  during  the previous  meeting,                                                               
which  indicated the  governor is  supporting this  bill, is  not                                                               
correct.  There  was  a misunderstanding  regarding  a  statement                                                               
issued  by the  Governor's  Council on  Disabilities and  Special                                                               
Education  stating  their position,  and  while  it is  on  state                                                               
letterhead, it is clearly not the governor's position.                                                                          
MR. MORSE  said he would  agree that tenth  grade is too  late to                                                               
begin  assessing  students'  progress,   but  the  Department  of                                                               
Education  and  Early  Development  does  not  do  that.  Schools                                                               
administer an  assessment called  "The Developmental  Profile" in                                                               
kindergarten. They  don't do another statewide  standardized test                                                               
until  third   grade,  but  do  administer   the  Standards-based                                                               
Assessment (SBA) annually from third  through tenth grades. It is                                                               
almost statistically  impossible for a student  who is proficient                                                               
on that assessment in all of  those years not to be proficient on                                                               
the high school qualifying exam.                                                                                                
He conceded that more frequent  in-classroom assessments based on                                                               
the  curriculum  would  be  more  effective  to  improve  student                                                               
learning,  but the  state cannot  hold students  accountable with                                                               
that type  of assessment. A  statewide end-of-year  assessment is                                                               
necessary  for accountability.  Under  the  existing statute  the                                                               
individual  student accountability  component is  the HSGQE.  The                                                               
rest   of   the   accountability   system   comprises   primarily                                                               
consequences  applied   to  schools   because  of  the   Title  1                                                               
requirement  "No  Child Left  Behind"  (NCLB).  Most of  Alaska's                                                               
comprehensive  high schools  are not  Title 1  schools and  don't                                                               
deal with the heavier consequences of NCLB.                                                                                     
8:18:53 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MORSE went  on to address remediation plans.  The state Board                                                               
of  Education passed  a regulatory  requirement  that the  school                                                               
districts place  students who do not  pass the exam on  the first                                                               
try on remediation plans. A  remediation plan was further defined                                                               
by  a  judge  in  Moore  vs.  State  as  one  designed  for  each                                                               
individual  student. The  department  monitors the  plans in  any                                                               
district where the state has  intervened. He added that the state                                                               
has intervened in five districts;  last year the department asked                                                               
each  of them  to turn  in every  individual student  remediation                                                               
plan for  review, to  make sure they  met the  requirements. This                                                               
year any  district that was late  turning in those plans  or that                                                               
did not have comprehensive remediation  plans, has to turn in all                                                               
of their plans. The department will  have people on the ground to                                                               
make sure teachers are following through.                                                                                       
8:20:28 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR OLSON  asked Mr.  Morse how  the judge's  ruling differed                                                               
from what was in place.                                                                                                         
MR.  MORSE said  that prior  to  2007, the  department asked  the                                                               
districts  to have  general remediation  plans for  all students,                                                               
but  those  did  not  address   individual  students.  The  judge                                                               
clarified  that  districts  must  have  plans  that  specifically                                                               
identify where  individual students need  help and what  is being                                                               
done for them.                                                                                                                  
8:21:34 AM                                                                                                                    
ERIK   McCORMICK,   Director,  Assessment   and   Accountability,                                                               
Department  of Education  and Early  Development (DEED),  Juneau,                                                               
Alaska,  said that  6 percent,  or just  about 3800  kids between                                                               
seventh and twelfth  grades, dropped out between July  1 and June                                                               
30, 2005.  In 2009 it was  5.2 percent or 3100  kids, a reduction                                                               
of 645 kids  or 0.8 percent statewide. The  dropout rate actually                                                               
increased in  the special education  population between  2005 and                                                               
2008,  but decreased  in 2009.  It  was 5  percent among  special                                                               
education students in  2005; it rose to 6.4 percent  in 2008, and                                                               
dropped to 5.9 percent in 2009.                                                                                                 
The graduation rate,  which is the percentage  of kids graduating                                                               
in four years,  was 6900 students or 61 percent  in 2005; in 2009                                                               
8000 students  or 67.5 percent graduated  even though enrollments                                                               
were declining. That  means there were 1100  more diplomas issued                                                               
than in 2005.  Also in 2005, the graduation rate  for the special                                                               
education  population  was  39  percent,  or  426  children  with                                                               
disabilities;  that was  up to  43.6 percent  or 549  children in                                                               
2009, a 38 percent increase.                                                                                                    
MR. MCCORMICK said  that of the 1500 seniors in  2008 who did not                                                               
receive  a diploma  but did  complete the  school year,  over two                                                               
thirds had passed  the HSGQE. That leaves about 500  kids who did                                                               
not receive  a diploma and  did not pass  all three parts  of the                                                               
He explained  that the department  followed a cohort  of students                                                               
through all four years of  high school starting in their freshman                                                               
year and  found that they had  a cumulative pass rate  of over 90                                                               
percent. In  other words, of the  kids who took the  test for the                                                               
first time in  the spring of their sophomore year,  90 percent of                                                               
those who stayed  in school through their  senior year eventually                                                               
passed all three parts of the HSGQE.                                                                                            
8:25:26 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS requested that Mr.  McCormick provide the committee                                                               
with a  copy of his  statistics. She contended that  the progress                                                               
Mr. McCormick cited can continue  even without the exit exam; not                                                               
all of that improvement can be tied directly to the test.                                                                       
MR. McCORMICK agreed.                                                                                                           
MR.  MORSE added  that they  can speculate,  but he  is confident                                                               
there must  be an  accountability system  in place  that provides                                                               
some consequence in case of failure.                                                                                            
SENATOR DAVIS  said it would  be up  to the department  to decide                                                               
what other  assessments they  would use; she  does not  intend to                                                               
get rid  of assessments, just  this exam. She reminded  them that                                                               
most  states are  moving away  from a  high-stakes test  to other                                                               
types of assessment tools.                                                                                                      
8:28:43 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MORSE answered that a number  of states are going away from a                                                               
single exit  exam and toward  end-of-course exams. Some  of those                                                               
states are requiring that students  pass a certain number of end-                                                               
of-course exams in order to obtain  a diploma, so more testing is                                                               
required and students still might not receive a diploma.                                                                        
8:30:12 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS disagreed.                                                                                                        
MR. MORSE asserted  that those states generally  test in multiple                                                               
courses at the end of each semester.                                                                                            
8:30:20 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER  questioned how many students  attended school for                                                               
all 12 years and did not obtain a diploma.                                                                                      
MR. MCCORMICK  responded that he  does not have the  2009 numbers                                                               
with him  but the  vast majority  of the  8000 graduates  in 2009                                                               
would have made it through in four years.                                                                                       
CO-CHAIR MEYER asked whether all of them passed the exit exam.                                                                  
MR. MCCORMICK confirmed that they had  to pass all three parts of                                                               
the HSGQE in order to get a diploma.                                                                                            
CO-CHAIR MEYER repeated  that he wants to know  how many students                                                               
went to school all four years and did not pass the exit exam.                                                                   
MR. MCCORMICK replied that number was about 500 in 2008.                                                                        
CO-CHAIR MEYER asked if those  500 kids finished school without a                                                               
MR. MCCORMICK replied that was correct.                                                                                         
CO-CHAIR MEYER  asked if the  state tracks what happens  to those                                                               
MR. MCCORMICK  answered that the  Department of  Education cannot                                                               
track individual  students at  this point,  but has  just entered                                                               
into  a memorandum  of  agreement with  the  Department of  Labor                                                               
(DOL) in  cooperation with the  University and is starting  to do                                                               
that analysis.                                                                                                                  
8:32:25 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER  said that  is one reason  he favors  the WorkKeys                                                               
over the  high school  exit exam;  some kids may  not be  able to                                                               
pass  the exit  exam but  certainly have  competence in  welding,                                                               
mechanics,  or other  areas that  don't  necessarily require  the                                                               
same level of academic skill.                                                                                                   
8:33:12 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS assured  Mr. McCormick that it is  not the intent                                                               
of  the  committee to  lower  any  standards,  but to  prevent  a                                                               
situation  that stigmatizes  students  who are  more inclined  to                                                               
vocational  or   technical  education.   He  stressed   that  the                                                               
department  needs to  assess students  earlier and  remediate any                                                               
problems in a timely manner.                                                                                                    
8:36:09 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MORSE  clarified that the  fiscal note  laid out the  cost of                                                               
the exit  exam as  it was  bid by  the contractor.  That contract                                                               
covers the HSGQE  and all of the  standards-based assessments, so                                                               
some cost-efficiencies  may be  lost in changing  it. He  was not                                                               
sure what  the savings would be.  He also pointed out  that under                                                               
state regulation, a  person can re-take the  test indefinitely if                                                               
he holds a certificate of achievement.                                                                                          
SENATOR DAVIS  asked if students  can come to the  district after                                                               
age 21.                                                                                                                         
MR. MORSE answered  that students can come on campus  to test but                                                               
have to  register with  the district  in advance.  Most districts                                                               
administer the  test someplace separate from  the other students;                                                               
Anchorage has an adult testing center.                                                                                          
He reiterated  that the department  feels the exam  should remain                                                               
in place at least until it has  a better picture of what is going                                                               
on  nationally with  the Elementary  and Secondary  Education Act                                                               
(ESEA), which is being renewed year-by-year.                                                                                    
In closing Mr. Morse emphasized that  the HSGQE is a basic skills                                                               
exam and includes  very little algebra and  geometry. He asserted                                                               
that statistics  show more students graduating  today than before                                                               
the exam requirement.                                                                                                           
8:40:04 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS asked  Mr. McCormick to comment on  the impact this                                                               
test has on the school districts.                                                                                               
8:40:24 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MORSE could  not provide the costs, but said  schools have to                                                               
make significant  changes to  their high  school programs  for at                                                               
least half a day on each of  six days per year to accommodate the                                                               
testing. Teachers  have to  be available  in a  ratio of  30:1 to                                                               
administer the  exam. The districts  have to prepare  and deliver                                                               
the materials to  all of their schools, and  there is significant                                                               
time  involved  in  putting those  materials  back  together  for                                                               
pickup by the contractor after testing.                                                                                         
8:41:58 AM                                                                                                                    
JOHN ALCANTRA, Government  Relations Director, National Education                                                               
Association (NEA) Alaska,  said NEA continues to  support SB 109.                                                               
NEA  represents 13,000  educators from  Metlakatla to  Barrow and                                                               
all  points  in  between.  He   agreed  with  previous  testimony                                                               
regarding the high  cost of the test and pointed  to the negative                                                               
impact on students of days of instruction lost.                                                                                 
Regarding problems  addressed in  Moore vs.  State of  Alaska, he                                                               
recalled that  about 23 percent of  schools at that time  did not                                                               
offer all of  the algebra and geometry covered on  the exit exam.                                                               
He  conceded that  the  problem  had been  addressed  in part  by                                                               
distance learning, but said he still saw areas of concern.                                                                      
In conclusion, he said that  many students believe they no longer                                                               
have to work as hard in school after passing the exit exam.                                                                     
8:45:12 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  OLSON  asked what  percentage  of  NEA Alaska's  members                                                               
support SB 109.                                                                                                                 
MR. ALACANTRA  answered that  support for  the bill  is unanimous                                                               
among the 400 elected NEA delegates.                                                                                            
SENATOR OLSON  was concerned  that the  State Board  of Education                                                               
has  come out  on one  side of  the issue  and NEA-Alaska  on the                                                               
MR. ALCANTRA  admitted that  he does not  attend the  State Board                                                               
meetings and could not explain that at this time.                                                                               
SENATOR  OLSON asked  how  many  of the  13,000  NEA members  are                                                               
teachers in the state of Alaska.                                                                                                
MR.  ALCANTRA  replied  that  NEA   Alaska  represents  the  vast                                                               
majority of the  8500 teachers in the state. Valdez  has about 75                                                               
teachers who are  not members. Of its 13,000  members, about 8200                                                               
are teachers;  3000 are education  support professionals  such as                                                               
secretaries, nurse's aides and others, and about 1500 are dues-                                                                 
paying members of NEA-Alaska's retired  program. About 75 percent                                                               
of NEA-Alaska's retired  members are teachers and  25 percent are                                                               
retired education support professionals.                                                                                        
SENATOR  OLSON assumed  the members  include teachers  in private                                                               
MR.  ALCANTRA said  they represent  K-12  public school  teachers                                                               
SENATOR  OLSON re-stated  that  Alaska  Pacific University  (APU)                                                               
professors are not included.                                                                                                    
MR.  ALCANTRA   clarified  that  no  university   professors  are                                                               
members;  they   are  represented  by  Alaska   Public  Employees                                                               
Association / American Federation of Teachers (APEA/AFT).                                                                       
8:48:02 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS asked  if NEA-Alaska has looked at  what might be                                                               
used to replace the HSGQE.                                                                                                      
8:48:56 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. ALCANTRA  said NEA  hasn't spent time  on what  would replace                                                               
the test,  but pointed out  that the  Standards-based Assessment,                                                               
the adequate yearly progress goal  required by NCLB, and the ESEA                                                               
are already  in place to  help gauge  how students are  doing. He                                                               
said NEA  can look  at what  other states are  doing and  get the                                                               
committee some information on other cost-effective alternatives.                                                                
8:50:37 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR OLSON said he understands  that this bill was introduced,                                                               
in part, because  employers complained that some  of the students                                                               
graduating   with  diplomas   were   not   proficient  in   basic                                                               
calculations or communication.                                                                                                  
8:51:17 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. ALCANTRA said  he does not think the exam  has improved that;                                                               
it results  in teaching to  the test.  He believes the  answer is                                                               
having  the  best,  most  qualified teacher  in  front  of  every                                                               
8:53:04 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR OLSON commented that support  for repealing the exit exam                                                               
seems  to be  widespread, even  among parents  of high-performing                                                               
students. He asked Mr. Alcantra if that is correct.                                                                             
MR. ALCANTRA  said he has  no polling data  to offer, but  he has                                                               
always opposed  the exam because of  the amount of time  it takes                                                               
away from instruction.                                                                                                          
8:55:08 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER concluded that all  of the testimony the committee                                                               
heard from  parents on Friday  and earlier supports SB  109. Even                                                               
the administration does  not seem to be averse to  the bill; they                                                               
just want to be sure there  is an efficient alternative in place.                                                               
He saw no reason to hold the bill in committee.                                                                                 
8:57:03 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS  ended by saying  that she does  not see a  need to                                                               
wait  for the  federal  government  to decide  what  it will  do;                                                               
education is a local concern.                                                                                                   
9:00:43 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER  moved  to  report SB  109  from  committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  attached  fiscal note(s).  There                                                               
being no objection, SB 109 was moved from committee.                                                                            
9:01:17 AM                                                                                                                    
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Co-Chair Thomas adjourned the meeting at 9:01 p.m.                                                                              

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