Educators and parents justifiably are concerned about what effect the upcoming exit exams will have on the failure rate of students. After all, if thousands of young Alaskans are denied high school diplomas because they don't pass the tests, the exams could be an unfair burden on youngsters who weren't properly prepared to take them.
Those concerned about the looming exam requirement here might find some comfort in the experience of New York state. Similar fears were expressed there when the state imposed a requirement that all students pass what are called Regents Examinations, first in English and later in math, social studies and science.
When the Regents Exam in English was first given recently, 97 percent of students who completed all other graduation requirements passed the test. While New York is vastly different from Alaska, it does have a wide range of community size from village to big city. It also has many minority students.
The exit exams are scheduled to be required for graduation in Alaska's public high schools starting in 2002, though the state is considering postponing them or somehow alleviating their impact. Such deliberations should continue. Requiring that all students meet minimum achievement levels is valid education policy, but making the change fairly is very important.
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