FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Students in Fairbanks performed better on benchmark and exit exams than the state average in most areas and about the same as students who took the tests last year, according to results released last week by the school district.
''The district is very pleased with the results of the assessment,'' said Jim Holt, superintendent of the Fairbanks school district. ''We plan to continue analyzing test data and providing details to schools for improving student achievement.''
The benchmark tests are given to students in third, sixth and eighth grades, while the exit exam is first given to high school students in 10th grade. Under an extension granted by the Legislature last session, students who graduate in 2004 will be the first to be required to pass the exit exam in order to get a diploma. The state is reworking the exit exam to make it more of a test of essential skills.
In Fairbanks, more than 1,000 students took the benchmark and exit exams at each grade level in March.
In most cases, student performance at a proficient level was 5 to 10 percentage points higher than the state average. The exceptions were eighth-grade math -- Fairbanks students scored slightly lower than the state average -- and 10th grade math, where the local passage rate matched the statewide average.
Both statewide and locally, students who took the tests this year seemed to fare about as well as the students who took the test in March 2000.
Tenth grade math is an exception.
According to state and local results, 44 percent of the sophomores who took the math portion of the exit exam in 2001 passed. That's a jump of 11 percentage points over 2000.
Nick Stayrook, the district's director of program planning and evaluation, wasn't too surprised.
''We did expect to see some increase with our new math curriculum,'' he said.
The biggest change to the local curriculum was one of sequencing, Stayrook said. Prior to the 2000-2001 school year, high school students would take Algebra I as freshmen, Algebra II as sophomores and Geometry as juniors. Now students take Algebra I, then Geometry, then Algebra II.
''We think that has improved our results because there is a good deal of geometry on the high school exam,'' Stayrook told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''In the spring of 2000 ... those 10th-graders had not had geometry.''
State education department spokesman Harry Gamble said several other districts statewide made similar changes. He also noted that this year, the math test was given on the first day of testing. In 2000, the math test was given last.
''You have the combination of the kids were fresher when they took the math test this year (and) those students may have had some additional intervention activities going on,'' Gamble said.
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