Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/26/2010 08:00 AM Senate EDUCATION

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08:03:06 AM Start
08:03:31 AM SB224
09:07:44 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
<Bill Hearing Postponed>
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
               SB 224-POSTSECONDARY SCHOLARSHIPS                                                                            
8:03:31 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER announced  continuation  of  consideration of  SB
224.  It was  heard  previously; committee  substitute (CS),  26-                                                               
GS2771\E was  adopted on 2/15/10  and amendments to  the original                                                               
bill were discussed  on 2/22/2010. Today, he  said, the committee                                                               
would hear from the commissioner.                                                                                               
8:05:14 AM                                                                                                                    
LARRY  LEDOUX, Commissioner,  Department of  Education and  Early                                                               
Development (DEED),  said he will  briefly review  topics related                                                               
to the  CS and address the  questions that were submitted  to the                                                               
department  yesterday.  Describing the  alternative  requirements                                                               
provided in  the CS as interesting,  he said he has  no objection                                                               
to this  proposed change. He  recounted that the  governor's bill                                                               
requires four years  of mathematics, four years  of science, four                                                               
years  of  language arts,  and  three  years of  social  studies.                                                               
Alternatively, the  CS requires three years  of mathematics, four                                                               
years of  language arts, three  years of science, three  years of                                                               
social Studies,  and two  years of a  foreign language  or Alaska                                                               
Native  language. He  opined  that  the alternative  requirements                                                               
would provide  a rigorous college curriculum  and he particularly                                                               
likes that  the foreign language requirement  includes the option                                                               
for  Alaska Native  language. Also,  many college-bound  students                                                               
already study a  foreign language and many colleges  list that as                                                               
a requirement.                                                                                                                  
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX  said  he  does have  concern  that  the  CS                                                               
removes the  standardized test requirement because  they validate                                                               
the student's  grades and  the rigor of  the courses,  reduce the                                                               
circumstance  of  grade  inflation, and  provide  insurance  that                                                               
students  are  prepared.  Observing  that the  ACT  and  SAT  are                                                               
accurate  predictors  of how  successful  a  student will  be  in                                                               
his/her  first year  of college,  he pointed  out that  a primary                                                               
goal  of  this program  is  to  ensure  that Alaska  schools  are                                                               
sending  to  the  university  young   people  who  will  succeed.                                                               
Students need  to be ready  to compete and the  standardized test                                                               
ensures that they're ready.                                                                                                     
He said  he's also very concerned  that the CS provides  only one                                                               
performance scholarship.  To qualify  a student  must have  a 3.5                                                               
GPA  or higher  in  rigorous academic  courses.  That's the  only                                                               
scholarship a  student can  get by  working hard  without showing                                                               
needs. There's no B+ scholarship  without needs and there's no C+                                                               
scholarship without  needs. The  next two tiers  [opportunity and                                                               
career scholarships]  have a needs-based qualification,  but if a                                                               
student doesn't  have a need,  he/she isn't qualified  for these.                                                               
This  is  very  different  than  the  governor's  scholarship  as                                                               
originally proposed,  which is an  invitation to all  students to                                                               
participate. The  goal of  the program is  to invite  students as                                                               
early as sixth grade to think  about course choices and work with                                                               
parents to encourage  their children to work hard  to prepare for                                                               
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX noted  that the  other body  has accepted  a                                                               
needs-based  amendment to  the governor's  program that  puts the                                                               
need after  the merit so  that all  students can qualify,  but if                                                               
there is a  financial need once they qualify then  the need could                                                               
be  met. That  is consistent  with the  challenge for  excellence                                                               
that we're  sending to young  people, he said. We're  saying that                                                               
if a  student works hard and  makes the right choices  in school,                                                               
the  state  will  help with  higher  education.  The  needs-based                                                               
component helps students whose families  can't pay for college in                                                               
COMMISSIONER   LEDOUX  expressed   concern  about   lowering  the                                                               
standard for  the career scholarship  and noted that  most career                                                               
and  technical   education  specialists  warn   against  lowering                                                               
standards. These  students work hard  and they'll achieve  a high                                                               
standard if one's set. He cited  the results from a recent survey                                                               
of  courses  offered  in  schools statewide  and  said  that  the                                                               
performance  scholarship will  have the  effect of  ensuring that                                                               
students  in  every school  in  the  state  will have  access  to                                                               
rigorous courses.  He noted that  some schools  aren't delivering                                                               
the  program  that students  need  to  be successful  in  college                                                               
regardless  of  the  scholarship,  and he  believes  that  should                                                               
change immediately.                                                                                                             
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX  summarized   that  the  biggest  difference                                                               
between  the two  bills is  the  needs before  merit. That's  not                                                               
acceptable, he stated.                                                                                                          
CO-CHAIR MEYER  said he  appreciates the  comments about  the ACT                                                               
and SAT.                                                                                                                        
8:17:12 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  OLSON  asked  if  the  ACT and  SAT  are  available  and                                                               
currently offered  to students in  the smaller high  schools like                                                               
Diomede, Shaktoolik, and Savoonga.                                                                                              
COMMISSIONER LEDOUX replied any school  in the state can become a                                                               
test center  and the tests will  be offered if there's  a student                                                               
that  needs to  take them.  He added  that he  assumes that  if a                                                               
community wasn't  able to offer  the test that the  student would                                                               
be flown to the appropriate  location to do so. Students wouldn't                                                               
be denied the opportunity to take the tests.                                                                                    
SENATOR OLSON observed that this  would likely add stress and put                                                               
those students at a disadvantage.                                                                                               
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX said  that's correct,  but he  believes that                                                               
most  schools,  regardless  of  size,  offer  the  tests  in  the                                                               
SENATOR STEVENS  observed that  grade inflation  would be  a real                                                               
disservice to students and standardized  tests address this issue                                                               
and keep everyone honest.                                                                                                       
8:18:51 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS described  the scholarship  program as  an agent                                                               
for change  in schools and  mused about how quickly  schools will                                                               
be able  to conform to  the new  standards. He clarified  that he                                                               
isn't looking for  an answer today, but it is  an important piece                                                               
to understand.                                                                                                                  
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX  said  it's  important  to  understand  that                                                               
implementation of the requirements will  be phased in and the law                                                               
allows for that.  He noted that other states have  phased in over                                                               
four years.                                                                                                                     
SENATOR  HUGGINS asked  about the  monetary impact  as they  move                                                               
toward full implementation.                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER LEDOUX replied they  have some predictability models                                                               
with regard to scholarship use.                                                                                                 
8:21:08 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS asked how many schools are in the state.                                                                          
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX  replied  he's  been told  that  the  survey                                                               
included 339  high schools in the  state and that there  are over                                                               
500 schools in the state, but he'll verify those numbers.                                                                       
SENATOR OLSON asked if the numbers include private schools                                                                      
MR. LEDOUX replied  he understands that the  survey included just                                                               
public schools.                                                                                                                 
8:23:58 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER  asked if  he'd  like  the  bill to  specify  the                                                               
courses  or if  he'd  prefer to  keep it  general  so DEED  could                                                               
specify the courses.                                                                                                            
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX replied  he would  prefer that  DEED specify                                                               
the courses to  meet the goals of the program.  If it's specified                                                               
in the law it would be  necessary to return to the Legislature as                                                               
university  requirements  change,  whereas  the  state  Board  of                                                               
Education could respond more expeditiously.                                                                                     
8:24:37 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS  asked if  his assumption  is accurate  that this                                                               
will be  easier for  correspondence and  home school  students to                                                               
conform to.                                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER LEDOUX answered yes.                                                                                               
SENATOR HUGGINS questioned how this  will be communicated to home                                                               
school students.                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX replied  most home  school students  in this                                                               
state are  affiliated with a  school district  or state-sponsored                                                               
correspondence  programs so  it wouldn't  be difficult.  The home                                                               
school  students  who  aren't affiliated  with  anyone  generally                                                               
monitor what the  Legislature and DEED does, but  they would also                                                               
receive communications through the public information process.                                                                  
8:25:51 AM                                                                                                                    
DIANE   BARRENS,  Executive   Director,   Alaska  Commission   on                                                               
Postsecondary   Education,  informed   the  committee   that  the                                                               
commission has a robust outreach  unit that uses the PFD database                                                               
to  send age-specific  information  directly  to households.  She                                                               
added that the governor's scholarship  program would certainly be                                                               
a keystone of that outreach if it were to pass.                                                                                 
CO-CHAIR MEYER asked why the  governor's bill lowers the monetary                                                               
amount  for vocational  students to  $3,000 when  it's recognized                                                               
that  vocational  schools  can  be   just  as  expensive  as  the                                                               
MR. LEDOUX  said they're  looking at whether  $3,000 is  too low,                                                               
but  they  know  that  most programs  at  the  Alaska  Vocational                                                               
Technical Center  (AVTEC), for example,  cost between  $1,600 and                                                               
$2,500. The  tuition for a  licensed practical nurse is  the most                                                               
expensive program  and it costs  $5,000. He noted that  the other                                                               
body amended  the needs-based  component making  career technical                                                               
students eligible  for needs-based  based on  room and  board and                                                               
other reasonable costs of attendance.  That body also proposed an                                                               
amendment  that  would  allow  students  who  qualify  under  the                                                               
academic  scholarships   to  transfer  the  award   to  a  career                                                               
technical school.                                                                                                               
8:28:54 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR OLSON asked  if vocational students are  required to take                                                               
the ACT or SAT.                                                                                                                 
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX  replied  they  anticipate  that  vocational                                                               
technical students  could qualify through  either the ACT  or the                                                               
WorkKeys job skills assessment.                                                                                                 
CO-CHAIR  MEYER  opined  that  the  ACT and  SAT  are  both  good                                                               
assessment  tools, but  he  recalls that  the  original bill  set                                                               
rather high standards for students to meet.                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX  clarified  that   the  bill  does  not  set                                                               
standards,  but  the  inference  was  that  the  state  Board  of                                                               
Education  would set  standards.  He said  he  wouldn't want  the                                                               
standards to  be any higher  than necessary in order  to validate                                                               
grades  and predict  success in  college. He  offered to  provide                                                               
data  relating  to minimum  ACT  scores  that are  predictive  of                                                               
college performance  and historical performance data  on both the                                                               
SAT  and  ACT  tests.  These show  that  our  students  generally                                                               
perform, he said.                                                                                                               
CO-CHAIR  MEYER  said he  would  appreciate  the information.  He                                                               
added  that he  believes that  it's important  to look  at how  a                                                               
student scores on  both the SAT and the ACT  because they're very                                                               
different tests.                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX observed  that many  programs accept  either                                                               
test because  they cross-correlate. He  said it would be  easy to                                                               
use either  test as a  qualifier because they're  both predictive                                                               
of success during the first year of college.                                                                                    
8:32:05 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS  asked, assuming  that this  passes, if  DEED has                                                               
the ability to track students  sufficiently to know that this has                                                               
worked or if  they will have to wait to  hear from the university                                                               
about the number of students who actually get a degree.                                                                         
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX  explained  that  an  Alaska  Commission  on                                                               
Postsecondary Education  applied for  a grant to  do longitudinal                                                               
studies to  determine student performance  at the  university. As                                                               
currently written,  the bill  requires DEED  to submit  an annual                                                               
report  informing  the  Legislature   about  the  status  of  the                                                               
scholarships and  what's happening  at the university.  He opined                                                               
that this program has great  potential to change education in the                                                               
state so  it will be important  to have good data  to monitor the                                                               
evolution of the program and ensure  that it meets the goals that                                                               
are set.                                                                                                                        
8:33:38 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER asked Ms. Barrens if  she would like to comment on                                                               
the bill.                                                                                                                       
MS.  BARRENS   said  the   Alaska  Commission   on  Postsecondary                                                               
Education is excited about the  prospect of having a program that                                                               
offers  equal  opportunity  to  Alaska  students  to  advance  to                                                               
postsecondary  education  and  training.  She  related  that  the                                                               
commission has been  involved in the development of  the bill and                                                               
she believes  that the provisions  are mindful. For  example, the                                                               
six-year framework that  the bill proposes is  designed to incent                                                               
students to proceed from secondary  to postsecondary schooling as                                                               
quickly  as  possible  because  there  is  a  direct  correlation                                                               
between waiting and  the ability to succeed. She noted  that in a                                                               
written response to prior committee  questions Ms. Butler pointed                                                               
out that students who delay pay  more and their chance of success                                                               
is  diminished. Most  states that  have similar  programs require                                                               
students  to  continue within  a  year  of graduation  from  high                                                               
school.  Responding  to  Senator  Davis's  observation  that  her                                                               
packet didn't  contain correspondence from Stephanie  Butler, she                                                               
related that a letter dated 2/23/10 was sent to the co-chairs.                                                                  
CO-CHAIR MEYER  assured Senator  Davis that  she would  receive a                                                               
8:36:39 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS said  he  agrees that  students  who delay  take                                                               
longer to get  a degree, but he isn't sure  it makes a difference                                                               
if a student  starts college at age  18 or age 25 if  the goal is                                                               
to educate  the workforce and  get more  people to get  a college                                                               
MS. BARRENS  said she  agrees with  his statement,  but financial                                                               
aid  programs for  adult students  are outside  the scope  of the                                                               
proposal. The structural  objective of this program  is to create                                                               
a  sense  of urgency  in  students  to proceed  to  postsecondary                                                               
education and  training and complete  it quickly. She  noted that                                                               
the  governor's proposal  allows  for  half-time attendance,  but                                                               
statistics show that they have a lower expectation of success.                                                                  
SENATOR STEVENS said some people need  a longer time to mature to                                                               
be  ready for  college and  he believes  that issue  needs to  be                                                               
addressed at some point, perhaps outside this bill.                                                                             
8:39:48 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  THOMAS  asked  at  what grade  students  begin  to  get                                                               
information about higher education and training programs.                                                                       
MS. BARRENS explained that the  earliest outreach effort that the                                                               
postsecondary  commission  has  is  second grade.  It's  a  joint                                                               
activity  with  the University  of  Alaska.  In fifth  and  sixth                                                               
grades they  have a  program called "I'm  going to  college" that                                                               
starts the  students thinking about  careers and includes  a trip                                                               
to the local university campus.  The university sends information                                                               
directly  to high  school freshmen  about planning  a preparatory                                                               
curriculum. In the  junior and senior years  the commission sends                                                               
information to students promoting going to college in Alaska.                                                                   
CO-CHAIR THOMAS asked  if school districts have  embraced the use                                                               
of the information.                                                                                                             
MS.  BARRENS  answered  yes; the  schools  have  enthusiastically                                                               
welcomed the  outreach because there  had been a vacuum  for this                                                               
sort of information. She offered  to provide specific information                                                               
about the districts that participate  in the various initiatives,                                                               
but this year  they anticipate that more than  2000 fifth graders                                                               
will  participate in  the  "I'm going  to  college" program.  The                                                               
direct mailings  go to all  students of a certain  age regardless                                                               
of whether they're in the school system.                                                                                        
8:43:48 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS asked if there is outreach to parents as well.                                                                  
MS.  BARRENS explained  that the  commission sends  cards to  the                                                               
parents  informing them  of  what  was sent  to  their child  and                                                               
asking for input,  but the caveat is that all  the information is                                                               
in  English. The  outreach  unit, which  is  based in  Anchorage,                                                               
engages faith-based organizations, Boys and Girls clubs, YMCAs.                                                                 
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX added  that  the implementation  of the  GPS                                                               
program will  include a  regulation requiring  six-year education                                                               
plans beginning in  the sixth grade. A school  official will meet                                                               
annually with  the student and parent  to review the plan  so the                                                               
parent can  receive information about choices,  scholarships, and                                                               
pathways. Also,  the state is in  the final stage of  approving a                                                               
new  CTE plan  that  calls  for the  development  of grade  level                                                               
expectations  in  career  and  technical  education  starting  in                                                               
kindergarten. There's a lot of effort in this area, he said.                                                                    
8:46:51 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  OLSON recalled  that in  the  '70s lots  of high  school                                                               
graduates who  went to the  North Slope  to work on  the pipeline                                                               
never returned to  school and he sees the  same cycle potentially                                                               
repeating itself with  the natural gas pipeline.  The proposal in                                                               
on  the right  track;  students should  proceed to  postsecondary                                                               
education and training sooner rather than later.                                                                                
SENATOR STEVENS  reiterated his belief  that it would be  a shame                                                               
to  pass  a  scholarship  bill that  leaves  out  non-traditional                                                               
SENATOR HUGGINS  asked how the  current scholars program  will be                                                               
affected by this proposal.                                                                                                      
COMMISSIONER LEDOUX  replied he  can't comment  on the  future of                                                               
the scholars  program going  forward, but  he hopes  it continues                                                               
because  the  two are  compatible  although  very different.  The                                                               
scholars program  provides funds  to all students  in the  top 10                                                               
percent of  their graduating class  as opposed to  the governor's                                                               
proposal that demands  a rigorous curriculum, a  certain GPA, and                                                               
a certain validating test score.                                                                                                
8:51:28 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS  asked how  the  governor's  proposal will  help                                                               
address  current  shortages  in  the  professional  workforce  in                                                               
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX  said there  has  been  no discussion  about                                                               
extending the  program to professional preparation  programs, but                                                               
a student  who receives a  BA down  south could return  to Alaska                                                               
and still  have two years of  eligibility that could be  used for                                                               
graduate or professional school.                                                                                                
SENATOR  HUGGINS  suggested  that  the committee  meet  with  the                                                               
university, high  schools and  DEED to  talk about  an integrated                                                               
tracking strategy for students.                                                                                                 
8:55:21 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.   BARRENS   explained   that  the   grant   application   the                                                               
commissioner referenced  is for a state  longitudinal data system                                                               
that proposes  to do  that working with  the Department  of Labor                                                               
and Workforce Development, the Department  of Education and Early                                                               
Development,  the  University  of  Alaska,  and  potentially  the                                                               
Department of Health  and Social Services, and  the Department of                                                               
Corrections. The  idea is  to track  students who  are successful                                                               
and those who  fall through the cracks. You  can't understand the                                                               
benefit of  education without identifying  the cost of  not being                                                               
educated, she said.                                                                                                             
SENATOR DAVIS said she too  has grave concern about ignoring non-                                                               
traditional students, particularly after  listening to the recent                                                               
testimony about  their needs. She  asked if the  department would                                                               
consider amending the bill to  accommodate these students in some                                                               
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX answered  that  the goal  of the  governor's                                                               
proposal is  to inspire  young people  who are  in the  system to                                                               
work  harder  and   develop  a  vision  for   success.  While  he                                                               
recognizes  that non-traditional  students need  support, opening                                                               
this program  to anyone who decides  to go back to  college would                                                               
change its focus entirely.                                                                                                      
8:59:21 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  BARRENS related  that the  AlaskaAdvantage need-based  grant                                                               
program  is available  to anyone  in need  as long  as funds  are                                                               
available, but the  funding source is very small.  After 2011 the                                                               
program will  either stop or  the commission will be  back asking                                                               
the Legislature for consideration for funding.                                                                                  
SENATOR DAVIS asked if AlaskaAdvantage is entirely state funds.                                                                 
MS. BARRENS  replied they  received some  non-recurring corporate                                                               
funds  this year.  There is  a  little over  $100,000 in  federal                                                               
dollars and  the Legislature appropriated  in the  capital budget                                                               
in FY09 funding that they are spreading over three years.                                                                       
CO-CHAIR  MEYER asked  if the  governor's original  bill required                                                               
the FAFSA.                                                                                                                      
MS. BARRENS replied the bill  doesn't specify that it's required,                                                               
but  the  commission  would  intend   to  use  it.  Without  that                                                               
information  they  couldn't  tell  the  socioeconomic  status  of                                                               
students  who  receive the  scholarship  funds.  Responding to  a                                                               
question, she said that filing the FAFSA is an annual process.                                                                  
9:02:54 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS  commented that they've made  progress today, but                                                               
he and  Senator Davis want  to make sure the  committee addresses                                                               
the issue of non-traditional students.                                                                                          
CO-CHAIR  MEYER agreed  that the  issue should  be addressed  and                                                               
said he  believes that the  committee has  a better feel  for the                                                               
bill and is ready for another CS.                                                                                               
SENATOR  DAVIS  suggested that  it  would  be  helpful to  get  a                                                               
written response to the questions that were asked previously.                                                                   
9:05:55 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER  LEDOUX committed  to  respond by  Monday. He  added                                                               
that he can answer question 16 right  now. It asks if this is too                                                               
much to  do in one year  and the answer is  no. We can do  it, he                                                               
SENATOR STEVENS said he assumes  Ms. Barren is comfortable making                                                               
merit the first stage and needs  the last and that she'd make the                                                               
unmet needs portion of the FAFSA work.                                                                                          
MS. BARRENS answered yes and  added that "It would be unfortunate                                                               
to   set  a   lower  standard   for  economically   disadvantaged                                                               
individuals and  see them  succeed at  lower rates  than everyone                                                               
[SB 224 was held in committee.]                                                                                                 
9:07:44 AM                                                                                                                    
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Co-Chair Meyer adjourned the  Senate Education Standing Committee                                                               
hearing at 9:07 a.m.                                                                                                            

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