Legislature(2013 - 2014)CAPITOL 106
04/05/2013 08:00 AM EDUCATION
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|Confirmation Hearing(s): Professional Teaching Practices Commission|
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 190-CREDIT FOR SECONDARY SCHOOL COURSES 8:27:50 AM VICE CHAIR REINBOLD announced that the final order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 190, "An Act providing for course credit in secondary school based on demonstrated mastery of the subject." 8:28:02 AM REPRESENTATIVE PAUL SEATON, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor of HB 190, offering a brief history for the proposed bill, explained that some high school students in the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) had only received partial credit at University of Alaska, as they had not accumulated enough seat time in their school districts. He explained that the proposed bill allowed students who demonstrated mastery of course content to challenge and test out of high school courses and receive academic credit. The proposed bill would leave the criteria for demonstrating mastery to the discretion of the school district, and would require the school district to provide an option for students to challenge a course through an assessment, designed by the school district. He noted that credits would apply to fulfilling the requirements for the Alaska Performance Scholarship, but not necessarily be factored in to the student's grade point average (GPA), if no letter grade was given. It did not attempt to establish credit for courses that were prerequisites for the challenged course. He stated that currently there was no requirement for school districts to provide an opportunity for students to challenge courses for academic credit. Some districts had pre-approved tech prep plans for certain college courses, but these were primarily focused on vocational coursework and were limited to established agreements between campuses. He pointed out that some school districts already allowed course challenges, including Anchorage, Kenai, Matanuska-Susitna, and North Star. He declared the necessity to establish a unified approach for challenging courses across the state, as this would keep students engaged in learning and challenged with rigorous coursework. He described the Anchorage Credit By Choice program, which had established a policy on Credit by Examination that students must score 90 percent to demonstrate proficiency. He clarified that the proposed bill did not establish a proficiency level for each school district, and would allow that the authority be kept with the district. He declared the need for the legislature to promote high academic achievement in education and allow HB 190 to "remove a barrier to students who wish to receive credit for their coursework and to support a learning environment that continues to challenge and reward student initiative." He stated that the proposed bill would resolve the issue in a more universal way. 8:32:21 AM VICE CHAIR REINBOLD read: "School districts must establish assessment tool for the student to demonstrate secondary school course mastery." She questioned whether school districts already had this in place, in light of the zero fiscal note [Included in members' packets.] REPRESENTATIVE SEATON clarified that the proposed bill was not offering a unified course or that the Department of Education and Early Development (EED) develop a demonstration of mastery, but was leaving this for each school district to design its own tests to determine the level of proficiency. VICE CHAIR REINBOLD suggested that parameters needed to be established for eligibility to challenge a course. She asked if this would result in a pass or no pass grade. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON expressed his agreement, and suggested that these questions would be answered at the district level. VICE CHAIR REINBOLD asked for more definition regarding the challenge to a course. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON opined that the intent of the proposed bill was to allow each district to establish its policy. He directed attention to an example of the Anchorage School District programs and policies, titled "Credit By Choice program (CBC) [Included in members' packets], which stated that a student had to be taking the class in order to challenge. He offered his belief that it would not be good policy to put the determinations in statute, but instead, to let each district make its own policy. 8:38:52 AM VICE CHAIR REINBOLD asked if Anchorage School District (ASD) was included on the list of existing programs, and if ASD was in support of the proposed bill. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON explained that Anchorage School District had the aforementioned "credit by choice" program, as did Kenai, Matanuska-Susitna, and several other school districts. He pointed out that there were many school districts which did not have the policy and had students who had passed a college course, yet had to return to the high school classroom for more seat time. He noted that the ASD did exempt physical education classes. He emphasized that it was not productive or effective education to require seat time of a student in order to demonstrate mastery of a course. VICE CHAIR REINBOLD declared that, although she agreed with the concept, the application was an issue. She questioned the activities of a student that had tested out of a class, asking "where do they go ... is that child gonna wander the halls." She declared her desire to ensure there were not any unintended consequences. 8:42:50 AM REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND pointed to page X, item 7, in the aforementioned "Credit by Choice" program handout, and stated that ASD had included a lot of detail. She offered her belief that students were already short of time in each school day, and she stated that she did not believe "there'll be students sitting around twiddling their thumbs looking for something to do or getting in trouble." She declared that these were students in search of additional stimulation, and she opined that they would do productive things with their time. 8:44:09 AM VICE CHAIR REINBOLD stressed that students would need to be directed to a specific place, and that parents did not want the kids to go just anywhere. She opined that this would create confusion for the teachers. 8:44:45 AM REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked if students were currently allowed to go home, if they finished classes early in the day. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON pointed out that the school district would determine a policy and he stressed that the students being served by the proposed bill were those students that tended to be ahead of classmates. He declared that the unintended consequence of students not being in the appropriate class was boredom and a bigger workload on the teacher. He noted that it was not required for a student to challenge a course, but that the school district had to provide the opportunity for those students who could demonstrate mastery of a subject to move on to other material. 8:47:41 AM REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked if any school districts had objected, as she was curious to the rationale for opposition. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON said that every school district in Alaska had been contacted. He listed several which already had a program, while others were in discussion for the program. He allowed that some school districts had not responded, but were aware that the proposed bill was being considered. REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked about the fiscal note, and announced that she did not support unfunded mandates. She declared that, although this should be a school district responsibility, it was not fair to mandate it without funding it. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON replied that the proposed bill had a zero fiscal note [Included in members' packets]. There would not be any new tests or assessments imposed. REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked to clarify that there was no additional cost anticipated to the school district. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON directed attention to the aforementioned "Credit By Choice program" handout and noted that there was an $85 fee for creation, administration, and evaluation of the challenge test. REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX offered her belief that this could "keep a bright kid from a low-income family in a course they don't need to have because they can't afford the $85 fee." She questioned the wisdom in this policy. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON explained that most policies allowed for fee waivers and scholarships, and that it would be important to refrain from placing details in statute. He cited that many high school drop-outs were smart students who were not being challenged and engaged. He declared the necessity to enforce that school districts had a policy to allow students to challenge out of a course for which they had demonstrated mastery of the material. 8:52:36 AM REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND directed attention to the "Credit By Choice" handout, page XI, Program No. 6, "Community service and field study," which listed the preapproved district programs that earned 0.5 units of credit. She lauded the proposed bill, and expressed a desire for the school districts to testify regarding the administration of these programs. 8:53:54 AM VICE CHAIR REINBOLD pointed out that schools with open forum curriculum allowed students to work at their own pace. She questioned whether the proposed bill would work in traditional schools. 8:55:18 AM HERB SCHROEDER, Vice Provost, University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, said that the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program components allowed students statewide to complete the courses necessary to earn the Alaska Performance Scholarship. He explained that students came to Anchorage during the summer to complete university courses taught by university faculty in the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program acceleration academy. He declared that a problem which arose for students was that completion of the course did not guarantee equivalent high school credit. He reported that the proposed bill would provide a mechanism for students to earn the correct high school credits. 8:56:59 AM REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND asked to clarify her concern for the transfer of credits. She opined that, as 24 high school credits in four years were required, a 0.5 credit was a single semester class. DR. SCHROEDER, in response, described a course at university versus at high school, and noted that, as the university class would be accomplished in a shorter period of time, a student was therefore given fewer high school credits than if the course was taken at the high school. He offered an anecdote of a student who had taken multiple courses at the university while enrolled in high school, yet was informed that he did not have enough credits to graduate from high school. REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND suggested that this issue should be discussed between the school district and the university. She referenced "Program No. 3 - College courses" in the aforementioned "Credit By Choice program," which stated that a three semester hour course at the university would only receive 0.5 high school credit. 9:00:10 AM VICE CHAIR REINBOLD expressed her praise for the ANSEP facility and the student levels of enthusiasm. She opined that, although the ability for a student to challenge a class was a good idea, she had concerns for the details at the classroom level. 9:01:20 AM GENE STONE, Assistant Superintendent, Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, said that all school districts would benefit from equality for credit transfers. He reported that the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District had adopted a policy to mitigate credit transfer issues based on parental requests and concerns. He pointed out that other credit options were also in place and offered an anecdote in support of the opportunity to test out of a class. If a freshman failed a semester class and repeated the course, but had mastered the content prior to the final examination, the school district supported a course challenge which allowed the student to move back into course sequence. VICE CHAIR REINBOLD asked at what point could the assessment be offered. MR. STONE replied that this was a district and school board policy, and that his school district reviewed these on a case by case basis. He noted the other credit option opportunities, which included on-line learning, and declared that this was a mantra for learning plans in education. VICE CHAIR REINBOLD repeated her concerns for unsupervised students. MR. STONE underscored that the district was able to manage each case, and that it was not designed as a situation solely to sign up and take the test. 9:09:00 AM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON clarified that the proposed bill would not override the Anchorage School District policy, but merely provided a student the opportunity to request the challenge and demonstrate mastery of the coursework to school district standards. He declared that education should engage students and allow progress. VICE CHAIR REINBOLD agreed with the concept, but declared her concern for the subsequent use of student time. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON replied that the proposed bill only required each school district to have a policy, that it left the criteria to each school district, and that it was not intended as a "one size fits all" solution. 9:12:38 AM MIKE HANLEY, Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner, Department of Education and Early Development (EED), stated his support for proposed HB 190, indicating that the bill accomplished the intent to allow a student to prove proficiency to a course. He offered his belief that a school district would be able to establish a policy for students to test out of a class, and define the boundaries as it chose for the best educational practice. 9:14:36 AM VICE CHAIR REINBOLD announced that public testimony would remain open and that proposed HB 190 would be held over.