District geared up for graduation test

Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2002

For those of us in education, we know the high-stakes testing based on Alaska standards becomes a huge deal next year.

The class of 2004, this year's junior class, will be required to pass the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam (HSGQE) before receiving a diploma from an Alaska public school.

But for anyone with a child who is a junior, there is a general sense of unease because the results from last spring's testing cycle aren't back.

The next round of testing occurs on Oct. 28-30, and it is anticipated that results from last spring will not be back until Oct. 15.

All of us wish this wasn't the case, but perhaps a bit of explanation will help everyone understand why it is so and why this is a "one-time" event.

First a bit of history:

In 1997, the High School Graduation Exam was established in statute. In 1998, Senate Bill 36 set the requirement for minimum performance standards in math, writing and reading prior to graduation.

In March 2000, the first administration of the high school exam occurred. The test is given in fall and spring, with students required to pass all sections prior to graduation.

The first time students can take the test is the spring of their sophomore year, giving them as many as five opportunities to pass.

Once a section (reading, writing, math) is passed, the student does not take that section again. Originally to be implemented for the class of 2002, the date was postponed to 2004 to allow the test to be adjusted to be a measure of essential skills.

Fortunately, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has been involved with the standards movement since its beginning more than 10 years ago and was prepared for implementation of the exam as a high-stakes test required for graduation.

Because of the adjustment to a test that reflects performance of essential skills, an intense review of test questions occurred this summer. (See related story, this page. )

It is anticipated that this will not need to be done again for several years and therefore in the future, results should be "turned around" in a much shorter time frame.

Donna Peterson is the superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

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