JUNEAU (AP) -- Klawock School District officials are developing a new diploma program that could be offered as an alternative for those who fail the state's new graduation exam.
The district is developing the program in response to a state law requires students to pass a competency test to receive a high school diploma, Klawock Superintendent Bob Robertson told the Ketchikan Daily News.
Under the state's program, students who do not pass the high school exit exam will receive a certificate of attendance.
''We do not want to give a certificate of attendance,'' he said. ''We are very concerned about everyone feeling successful.''
If the Klawock School Board approves, the district will offer students an opportunity instead to pursue a diploma of mastery in computers, carpentry, welding, auto mechanics, forestry, marine biology, business management, tourism, arts or early education, Robertson said.
Bruce Johnson, Department of Education and Early Development deputy commissioner, said Wednesday that districts will be prohibited from awarding students anything called a diploma if they do not pass the exit exam when the new law takes effect for the class of 2002.
He said the department has received the most comment on diploma alternatives from families of children with disabilities who are working up to their capacities but still falling short of the graduation requirement.
''We believe the law allows that,'' Johnson said. ''It just cannot be called a high school diploma.''
He said the department expects to issue guidelines to school districts next year on what they can do.
''We think it makes sense to acknowledge kids for their hard work,'' Johnson said.
But the department would not want alternative awards getting in the way of students striving for diplomas.
''That's going to be their best ticket to the future,'' Johnson said.
Rep. Con Bunde sponsored the 1997 legislation that set up the qualifying exams. Like the governor's call this year for more money to help students meet the standard, Bunde said, the call for alternative achievement certificates is premature.
''I'd like to see people have a little more confidence in our high school students,'' Bunde said.
He said the graduation exam will reflect what the average student is expected to know. In the past, he said, students could sleep through high school and expect a diploma.
''This has raised the bar so kids know what the expectations are,'' Bunde said. The law also will increase the confidence of the public in what a diploma means.
He said he is a strong supporter of vocational education, but, ''In the world we're living, if you can't read or write at a high school level, it's going to be very difficult to succeed,'' Bunde said.
Robertson said students who pass the high school competency exam may pursue both a diploma of mastery and a state diploma.
Although Robertson said the Klawock teaching staff supports the state's efforts to implement graduation standards, the district is concerned that the certificate of attendance will negatively affect students' self-esteem.
''We can't have a greater division of the haves and the have-nots,'' he said.
The district, he said, plans to de-emphasize the different program tracks at graduation, adding that staff will work to ensure that all students are respected and feel they have really accomplished something by graduation time.
The district still expects most of its students will pass the high school competency exam, Robertson said.
''We're going to strive to be the best in the state,'' he said.
The Klawock School Board was slated to discuss the program Wednesday. If the board approves the idea, Robertson said, the district would start the program next year.
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