Education Committee Taking Up Pair of Stevens’ Bills

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Jay Barrett/KMXT
Tomorrow morning, Kodiak’s Gary Stevens, the Senate Education Committee chairman, will be holding the first hearing on doing away with the Alaska high school qualifying exam. That’s a test students must pass to be given a diploma, no matter their grades:
“It doesn’t really prove too much; it hasn’t worked too well. We’ve had three days, and sometimes six days in a full year to do that testing. And all it really does in the end is to tell a child and a parent if they’ve reached a certain level so they can go out in the world, and really that level’s not very high. And what many high school students do is once they pass that exit exam they pretty much think they’re through with school, and that can happen quite early in your high school career.”
Stevens said that with a new standardized testing system expected in 2015, it only makes sense to eliminate the current exam.
“It’s a test that really no longer accomplishes what it should, and what we wanted it to accomplish when it passed I think in about 98 or so. So it’s time to look at it. And we’ll hear testimony from everyone that is interested and that there are better tests out there to really tell us what a child needs before they graduate, how we can help our kids be ready to go into the world with a job or college.”
The exit exam bill is one of two Stevens has introduced this session. His other, SB 107, will encourage early reading efforts by establishing a reading program for kindergarten through third grade students.
“What we really find out is if our children can be in the third – when they’re in the third grade and they can read at a third-grade level, then the world is open to them. They can go on and improve their learning skills and be good, contributing members of our society and well-educated folks. What the studies show is it’s really hard to do remedial learning to help them get better after third grade. We spend a lot of money on that and a lot of time on that, but if a child is not ready at that age in their lives, it’s going to be really hard to catch them up.”
Stevens said that his bill would call for every child to be evaluated in reading during the primary years, and if found deficient, given extra training.
“We’ll have after-school programs or summer programs, but the goal of that piece of legislation is to try to help every child who can be helped get to a third-grade reading level by the time they’re in third grade.”
Stevens and the Senate Education Committee has been already been busy this year. They met for two days earlier this month in Anchorage to discuss the Common Core and Alaska Academic Standards.

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