ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Results of a statewide exam show that Alaska's grade school students are holding their own in reading and writing, but they have trouble as math gets more complex.
The tests were given last year to third-, sixth- and eighth-graders in conjunction with a comprehensive high-school competency exam being developed by the state Board of Education and Early Development.
Students must pass tests in each of the three subjects to earn a high school diploma beginning in 2002.
The state board voted unanimously Saturday to start the public comment period for the proficiency standards set by panels of educators and other Alaskans in August. They added an adjustment for statistical error similar to the one used on the high school exit exam.
While the tests for high school students have only one passing score, the tests for students in lower grades result in one of four rankings. A student is judged to be advanced, proficient, below proficient or not proficient.
Test questions are based on standards of what students should know at each grade level.
In reading, 70 percent or more of the third-, sixth- and eighth-grade students were judged to be proficient or advanced.
In writing, only half of the third-graders were deemed to be proficient, but that rating improved to nearly three-fourths of the sixth- and eighth-graders.
In math, nearly two-thirds of the third and sixth-graders did fine, but only 41 percent of the eighth-graders were determined to be proficient or advanced.
Bruce Johnson, deputy education commissioner, said a more students appear to fail math when it moves beyond basic computation, which is stressed up through sixth grade, into more complicated subjects such as algebra and statistics.
''It appears that somewhere along the line, not all the kids are engaged at the level they need to be,'' Johnson told the Anchorage Daily News.
The biggest surprise on the test was not the poor performance by eighth-graders in math, but how well they did in reading, Johnson said. Two-thirds of them reached the advanced level, and another 17 percent were at least proficient.
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