Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 211

04/01/2009 08:00 AM Senate EDUCATION

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08:02:28 AM Start
08:02:53 AM SB109
08:30:59 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
Heard & Held
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE EDUCATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                         April 1, 2009                                                                                          
                           8:02 a.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Bettye Davis, Vice Chair                                                                                                
Senator Charlie Huggins                                                                                                         
Senator Donald Olson                                                                                                            
Senator Gary Stevens                                                                                                            
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 109                                                                                                             
"An Act repealing the secondary student competency examination                                                                  
and related requirements; and providing for an effective date."                                                                 
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: SB 109                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: REPEAL SECONDARY SCHOOL EXIT EXAM                                                                                  
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) DAVIS                                                                                                    
02/17/09       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/17/09       (S)       EDC, CRA, FIN                                                                                          
03/16/09       (S)       EDC AT 8:00 AM BELTZ 211                                                                               
03/16/09       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/16/09       (S)       MINUTE(EDC)                                                                                            
04/01/09       (S)       EDC AT 8:00 AM BELTZ 211                                                                               
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
SENATOR BUNDE                                                                                                                   
State Capital                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK                                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 109 as the author of the                                                                  
original bill.                                                                                                                  
TOM OBERMEYER, staff to Senator Davis                                                                                           
State Capital                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK                                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 109 for the sponsor.                                                                      
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
8:02:28 AM                                                                                                                    
VICE-CHAIR  BETTYE DAVIS  called  the  Senate Education  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order at 8:02  a.m. Present at the  call to                                                               
order were Senators Huggins, Olson and Davis.                                                                                   
            SB 109-REPEAL SECONDARY SCHOOL EXIT EXAM                                                                        
8:02:53 AM                                                                                                                    
VICE CHAIR  DAVIS announced  SB 109 to  be up  for consideration.                                                               
She  indicated that  no  one  was on  line  or  present from  the                                                               
8:03:12 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BUNDE  said he was  the author  of the original  bill and                                                               
authored it,  because the business  community and  the University                                                               
had  serious  concerns  about  children  leaving  school  with  a                                                               
diploma   and  being   functionally   illiterate.  The   business                                                               
community  found itself  in  the situation  of  either having  to                                                               
teach new employees to read and write  or to simply let them go -                                                               
neither a good solution. The  University was also very frustrated                                                               
with getting high school graduates  who could not function at the                                                               
University level spends about $20 million/yr. in remedial work.                                                                 
SENATOR BUNDE  indicated that President  Hamilton said  that many                                                               
Alaskan  students  needed  a  full  year  of  remediation  before                                                               
starting classes  instead of the  one or two classes  that others                                                               
in the Lower 48 typically took.                                                                                                 
8:05:12 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS joined the meeting.                                                                                             
SENATOR BUNDE continued that they  had discussions regarding what                                                               
a high  school diploma should  mean, and finally  benchmarks were                                                               
established  for minimum  proficiency  - at  about the  9   grade                                                               
level of  proficiency. A majority  of students do pass-  and many                                                               
of  them at  the  first  attempt; some  never  will  pass, and  a                                                               
majority of these are intensive needs students.                                                                                 
He  suggested  that  we  ought   to  keep  this  benchmark  until                                                               
something  better  is  found.  About 80  percent  of  the  public                                                               
supported  it at  passage, and  it has  been his  experience that                                                               
students seem  to be attending  school more regularly  and paying                                                               
closer attention in class since this test was implemented.                                                                      
He  has  heard  questions  about   whether  the  diagnostic  test                                                               
administered in the  11th grade is given too late  to do anything                                                               
about it  if the students  are not able  to pass and  thinks they                                                               
should discuss  an earlier  evaluation. He  said the  high school                                                               
exit  exam costs  $1  million  to administer,  but  it  is not  a                                                               
substantial amount of money when compared to the school budget.                                                                 
8:10:08 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS asked  Senator  Bunde to  stay  involved in  the                                                               
process as  they work  through ways  to improve  it, and  as they                                                               
review other instruments.                                                                                                       
SENATOR BUNDE  said he  would be  happy to.  He said  that former                                                               
Senator Gretchen  Guess was deeply  involved in this  project and                                                               
he encouraged the committee to see  if she would be available for                                                               
comment as well.                                                                                                                
8:11:05 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR OLSON asked  Senator Bunde if he had  gotten any feedback                                                               
from teachers regarding the efficiency of the exit exam.                                                                        
8:12:23 AM                                                                                                                    
In response, Senator  Bunde shared an experience.  After the exit                                                               
exam  had  been in  place  for  about  three  years, a  group  of                                                               
Anchorage  principals came  to see  him. They  told him  the exit                                                               
exam was working,  students were coming to  school more regularly                                                               
and were  paying more  attention, but it  was very  difficult and                                                               
expensive. They  assured him that  they would continue to  do the                                                               
substantial   list   they   had  created   to   help   remediated                                                               
unsuccessful students  who couldn't  pass the  exit exam  if they                                                               
the  legislature  would  withdraw  taking  the  exit  exam  as  a                                                               
requirement. He said  the dropout rate has always  been a problem                                                               
in Alaska.                                                                                                                      
SENATOR OLSON said it is  his understanding that the dropout rate                                                               
increased after  the exit exam  was put  in place, but  he didn't                                                               
know why. He could see how a  person would lose hope and drop out                                                               
if he failed the exam at age 15.                                                                                                
8:14:44 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BUNDE  asked him to remember the  exam is 9   grade level                                                               
proficiency. Students start falling  behind early in their career                                                               
and by  the time  this exam  is administered  they are  already a                                                               
couple of  years behind and often  drop out anyhow. He  has heard                                                               
one criticism  of the  exam that  may be valid  and that  is that                                                               
students pass all three sections  and think they've done all they                                                               
need  to,  so they  leave  school.  He  does  not think  that  is                                                               
actually  a  problem with  the  exam,  rather with  parents'  and                                                               
schools' representation of it.                                                                                                  
8:16:30 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR OLSON  asked when  the bill  originally passed,  what was                                                               
the department's position and if it had changed.                                                                                
SENATOR  BUNDE  responded  that  when  this  passed  Dr.  Shirley                                                               
Holloway  was  the  commissioner;  and she  worked  closely  with                                                               
Senator  Guess,  himself  and  others.  He  remembered  that  Ms.                                                               
Holloway was  supportive of the  high school qualifying  exam and                                                               
felt it should continue.                                                                                                        
SENATOR OLSON asked if she testified to that on the record.                                                                     
SENATOR BUNDE replied  that this is from a  conversation they had                                                               
in the past  couple of weeks. She helped shape  the exam; so when                                                               
it passed  he remembered her  being supportive.  Governor Knowles                                                               
signed  the bill.  The recent  past  commissioner, Roger  Samson,                                                               
supported it as well, and felt  Alaska was on the cutting edge of                                                               
educational reform  since it was  the only state to  have enacted                                                               
8:18:42 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR OLSON asked how many states have an exit exam.                                                                          
SENATOR BUNDE replied that he was not sure.                                                                                     
VICE CHAIR DAVIS said she would get that information for him.                                                                   
8:18:58 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS  said last time  they discussed this he  tried to                                                               
get the  department to take a  stand and they "danced  around it"                                                               
and did  not. One of  their rationales was  going to a  Work Keys                                                               
Program  and having  a  level of  proficiency  indication on  the                                                               
diploma.  He didn't  think that  was quite  the same  as an  exit                                                               
SENATOR BUNDE  responded that was  discussed when  they developed                                                               
the original  test. They  considered gilt-edged  diplomas, barely                                                               
competent diplomas and attendance  diplomas. He worked in special                                                               
education when he  taught; there were blue birds,  red birds, and                                                               
yellow birds. The kids knew  slow, average and bright, and that's                                                               
what the diplomas would come to  mean. The legislature has a role                                                               
in deciding what a diploma means.                                                                                               
He  said  it is  difficult  to  test  competencies and  the  more                                                               
categories  they have,  the more  confused the  public gets.  So,                                                               
that idea was rejected; but he  has not had a direct conversation                                                               
with  the department  but staff  has, and  the enthusiasm  in the                                                               
department for the high school exit exams is tepid at best.                                                                     
8:21:07 AM                                                                                                                    
VICE CHAIR DAVIS  opined that despite the exit  exam, the dropout                                                               
and  graduation rates  don't seem  to  be any  better. She  asked                                                               
Senator Bunde if he is aware  that there isn't just one test, but                                                               
two that have been combined.                                                                                                    
8:22:22 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BUNDE replied  yes, he  is aware  of taht,  and he  also                                                               
knows the NCLB test cannot be dropped.                                                                                          
VICE CHAIR  DAVIS said the reason  the bill came forward  is that                                                               
the department  did not address  the recommendation by  the Board                                                               
of  Education two  years ago.  It is  her understanding  that the                                                               
present board said  it is ready to consider it  and that they are                                                               
looking  at Work  Keys as  one  alternative. Many  of the  people                                                               
supported the exit exam, but they  mostly agree that it now needs                                                               
to be reviewed. Many of Alaska's  young people, even many who are                                                               
supposed to  be honor  students, go  away to  school and  have to                                                               
take remedial courses before they can get to their core program.                                                                
She also  pointed out that the  test has been watered  down since                                                               
it was  implemented, and it's  now at about  the 8   grade level.                                                               
She asked  if Senator Bunde  would be  willing to review  some of                                                               
these issues as she would value  his input. This is a high stakes                                                               
test. If you  don't come out of school with  a diploma, you can't                                                               
get into  many schools and a  GED does not qualify  as a diploma,                                                               
which  is something  that needed  review also.  Some states  have                                                               
withdrawn the exit exam requirement.                                                                                            
8:26:35 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BUNDE  agreed that they  should never stop  searching for                                                               
improvement, but he didn't want to  let go of one tool until they                                                               
had another. He  said he appreciated the invitation  and would be                                                               
happy to work with the committee in any way possible.                                                                           
8:27:00 AM                                                                                                                    
TOM OBERMEYER, staff to Senator  Davis, sponsor of SB 109, wanted                                                               
to  go  over  some  statistics provided  by  the  department.  He                                                               
referenced a  document from Eric McCormick  dated March 18   that                                                               
gave some graduation  statistics. It indicated that  in the 2008,                                                               
there was a  62 percent graduation rate. In  summary although the                                                               
graduation  rate  has  remained  consistent over  the  last  five                                                               
years,   the  number   of  graduates   has  increased   for  four                                                               
consecutive  years.  This  is  largely  to  the  efforts  of  the                                                               
district to  retain those  students who may  need more  than four                                                               
years to  graduate. He  pointed out that  the graduation  rate is                                                               
calculated unlike  the dropout rate,  over the cohort  group from                                                               
grades 9-12  using the  number of  graduates as  the denominator.                                                               
Statistics  on the  graduation exams  are not  high, but  they do                                                               
have a  95 percent participation rate.  Graduation passage scores                                                               
tend to drop as they go  up higher because those kids who haven't                                                               
passed before don't improve  and then end up dropping out  by 12                                                                
VICE CHAIR DAVIS  said she would rather not  discuss these things                                                               
until the committee has copies of the reports.                                                                                  
MR. OBERMEYER  said there packets  should already  have documents                                                               
from CEP  that indicate movement  in other  state back to  end of                                                               
course exams rather than one high-stake exam at the end.                                                                        
VICE-CHAIR DAVIS  found no  further comments and  held SB  109 in                                                               
8:30:59 AM                                                                                                                    
VICE CHAIR DAVIS adjourned the meeting at 8:30 a.m.                                                                             

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