About 56 high school seniors in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District are expected to sit next week for their last chance to pass all three portions of the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam in order to receive diplomas this spring.
The exam, which tests students' basic skills in math, reading and writing, is first administered to students in the second semester of their sophomore year. Students then have two opportunities each year to retake failed portions of the exam. This is the first year 12th-graders have been required to pass all three parts of the test in order to receive a diploma.
All sophomores in the district will test next week, as will juniors and seniors who have yet to pass all three portions.
The writing test will be administered Tuesday; the math test, Wednesday; and the reading test, Thursday.
The district has the sixth-highest passing rate for seniors in the state, with about 85.1 percent of 12th-graders finished with the test, according to data released at the Alaska State Board of Education meeting last month. Only Cordova, Denali, Mount Edgecombe, Un-alaska and Wrangell schools exceed the Kenai Peninsula's senior passing rate, and the local school district is first among the state's large school districts for 12th-grade passing rates.
That's good news for the district.
Still, those high passing rates don't help the 56 students who won't graduate without passing scores next week.
The district has been working hard to meet their needs bytrying to align curricula with the test's standards and offering after-school tutoring and Saturday school to help students prepare.
Those seniors who fail to pass all three portions of the test next week still will get to walk across the stage at graduation, receiving a certificate of attendance. They also will be encouraged to keep working toward their high school diplomas with additional classes and test dates next year.
Also next week, students of all ages will take a battery of other state-mandated tests. Students in grades three, six and eight will take the Alaska Benchmark Tests on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thurs-day, while those in grades four, five, seven and nine will take the Terra Nova tests on the same days.
The Alaska Benchmarks test reading, writing and math skills based on Alaska standards using multiple choice, short constructed response and extended constructed response questions. The test is not timed, but generally takes two to three hours per portion.
The Terra Nova, or CAT/6, tests are standardized tests measuring achievement on a national scale. Students are compared on a percentile basis to their peers nationwide. Testing takes about three hours daily.
The Alaska Benchmarks, Terra Nova and HSGQE all are used to calculate schools' and districts' adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Schools that do not meet adequate yearly progress ultimately risk reorganization by the government or loss of federal funding after several years.
Part of adequate yearly progress is based simply on the percentage of students who show up to take the test, and it is in this area that several of the district's "failing" schools missed the mark last year.
For that reason, district and school officials encourage parents to make sure students attend school on testing days and arrive on time. They also recommend students get a good night's sleep and hearty breakfast prior to testing.
Those taking the HSGQE also are encouraged to prepare for the test. A practice test is available online at www.eed.state.ak.us/tls/assessment/hsgqe.html.
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