Nenana school officials forget to administer exit exam

Posted: Thursday, November 09, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Nenana City School District is in trouble with the state Department of Education after school officials there forgot to administer the high school exit exam in early October.

''As far as we are concerned, the district broke the law. A number of students lost one opportunity to take and pass portions of the high school graduation exam,'' state Department of Education spokesman Harry Gamble told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''The commissioner is going to write a very stern letter to the school district.''

Gamble said state regulations require that every public school offer the exit exam on the dates and times set by the department. He said those dates are on the department's Web site, and have been brought up at several training sessions held by the department. In addition, Gamble said the department sent all districts a calendar that lists testing dates.

''There is a statute on the books that allows the department to withhold state funds from a district that doesn't do a number of things,'' Gamble said. ''But that would punish every child in the district and we are not going to take that course of action.''

According to Principal Rick Chrisman, 11 Nenana City School students were eligible to take the exit exam, which was administered statewide in early October.

Superintendent Terry Bentley said the school received the test booklets, but didn't give the test.

''We forgot to offer it,'' Bentley said. ''We blew it. We made a mistake and we are trying to (recuperate).''

Bentley said the test was offered to students in the district's cyberschool, which has a separate principal.

Chrisman said this is his first year as principal at the school and in Alaska.

''I was aware of the test date but I missed the test date more than likely just by trying to learn my new job,'' he said.

He said he realized his mistake on the second day of testing.

However, the district didn't call the parents of the students who should have taken the test until one parent came forward. Gamble said the state heard about the error from a parent, not from the district.

Parent Karen Lord said she realized something was wrong two weeks ago when her son, Stephon, started bringing home information on other standardized tests.

''I turned around and asked my son, 'when are you going to take the exit exams,''' Lord said. He told her they weren't.

On Oct. 30 she went to talk to the school officials. Three days later she called the state and went to a school board meeting with her concerns.

''Students in that school missed a chance, an opportunity, to pass and there is nothing we can do about it, there is no makeup,'' Lord said.

The school's error is complicated even more in her case, because her son is a special education student, and taking the test was part of his individual education plan, she said. ''The school is not in compliance with my son's IEP.''

''My son is not going to fall through the cracks because the administration can't keep track of important dates.''

Lord also questions the school's intent to let people know about the error.

''I think what really gets me is they were trying to keep it in the dark,'' she said.

Chrisman said he feels very badly about the mistake.

''It is nothing that I intentionally kept from anybody. There was nothing intentional. I was not told to keep quiet about it,'' he said.

Chrisman said he was under the impression that the test was an optional one and he was so busy learning the ropes that he didn't call parents immediately.

He said he is trying to make amends for the error.

''I have been working to make up for missing that test date by planning two practice test dates between now and the February test date,'' he said. ''I apologize greatly and I hope that the things that we are doing to help these students be successful on that test are profitable.''

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