Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 106

03/27/2009 08:00 AM House EDUCATION

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Dropout Discussion TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
HB  33-RAISE COMPULSORY SCHOOL ATTENDANCE AGE                                                                                 
8:05:25 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON announced that the first order of business would be                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 33, "An Act relating to compulsory school                                                                        
attendance; and providing for an effective date."                                                                               
8:06:01 AM                                                                                                                    
KELSEY CLARK,  Senior, Unalaska City High  School, stated support                                                               
for HB 33  and paraphrased the following portion  of her prepared                                                               
statement,   which   read   as  follows   [original   punctuation                                                               
     As  an Alaskan  student  I have  witnessed  many of  my                                                                    
     peers' drop-out  of high school when  they are sixteen.                                                                    
     I have  seen students who were  once very enthusiastic,                                                                    
     transition to frustrated  students who give up.   I was                                                                    
     recently speaking  with a  boy, who  I was  supposed to                                                                    
     walk with at graduation, about  how he decided to drop-                                                                    
     out of high  school.  The boy stated  that he regretted                                                                    
     dropping  out, but  felt like  it  was too  late to  go                                                                    
     I would  have liked  to have  prevented my  friend from                                                                    
     dropping out,  but since the  past cannot be  changed I                                                                    
     feel the future  could be.  Since the  drop-out rate is                                                                    
     horrendously  high,  and  thirty-nine  percent  of  our                                                                    
     ninth  graders are  predicted to  not have  high school                                                                    
     diplomas I  feel that as  a state  we need to  create a                                                                    
     change.  I  believe that one of the  strongest and most                                                                    
     effective ways we  can create a change in  Alaska is by                                                                    
     supporting and passing the House  Bill 33, which raises                                                                    
     the compulsory school age in public schools.                                                                               
     The  House  Bill  33 was  sponsored  by  Representative                                                                    
     Cathy  Munoz, and  if passed  would raise  the drop-out                                                                    
     age  from sixteen  to  eighteen.   In  my most  sincere                                                                    
     opinion I feel this house  bill could have a positively                                                                    
     dramatic affect  on Alaska's  drop-out statistics.   It                                                                    
     is  scientifically proven  that at  the age  of sixteen                                                                    
     the  brain's  decision-making   section  is  not  fully                                                                    
     developed  so  many students  do  not  truly mull  over                                                                    
     their  decision to  drop-out  of high  school.   In  my                                                                    
     experience with my friend, he  stated that he wished he                                                                    
     had not dropped  out, so if this bill  had been enacted                                                                    
     he would not have been  able to make such a devastating                                                                    
8:07:27 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  related concerns  she has  heard regarding                                                               
having students  in school  who don't choose  to be  there, which                                                               
could make it more difficult for others.                                                                                        
MS. CLARK noted  that the friend she referenced  in her testimony                                                               
was   very  bright,   had  good   grades,  and   participated  in                                                               
extracurricular  activities.   In response  to Chair  Seaton, Ms.                                                               
Clark explained  that her friend  dropped out due  to frustration                                                               
and  [to  take  advantage]  of  employment  opportunities.    The                                                               
frustration  arose from  life in  general,  family problems,  and                                                               
homework.  She related that everyone likes the school.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER asked  whether anything  else, besides  a                                                               
law requiring  his attendance, could  have been done to  help Ms.                                                               
Clark's friend stay in school.                                                                                                  
MS. CLARK replied  no, adding that her friend  has indicated that                                                               
he severely regrets the decision to drop-out now.                                                                               
8:10:08 AM                                                                                                                    
NANCY  WAGONER,  Superintendent,  Fairbanks  North  Star  Borough                                                               
School   District,  stated   her  strong   support  for   HB  33,                                                               
paraphrasing  from a  prepared statement,  which read  as follows                                                               
[original punctuation provided]:                                                                                                
     I  strongly  support HB  33.    Raising the  compulsory                                                                    
     attendance  age  to  18  sends   the  message  that  we                                                                    
     (Alaskans) value  education.   It sets  the expectation                                                                    
     that all students should graduate from high school.                                                                        
     Will this Bill  solve the Dropout problem?   The answer                                                                    
     is NO.   However, it  sets the expectation and  then it                                                                    
     is  our  job as  educators  to  provide the  three  R's                                                                    
     mentioned  in   the  Bill:     Rigor,   Relevance,  and                                                                    
     Relationships.     We  must  provide  a   rigorous  and                                                                    
     challenging  curriculum  that  is relevant  in  today's                                                                    
     world as well  as in the future.  We  must build strong                                                                    
     relationships with students  and families; letting them                                                                    
     know that  we believe  in them and  that we  care about                                                                    
     them and their future.                                                                                                     
     Knowing   that  students   learn  differently   and  at                                                                    
     different rates,  districts all across the  state offer                                                                    
     a variety  of alternative  programs to  accommodate the                                                                    
     needs  of  students  who  are  not  successful  in  the                                                                    
     traditional programs.                                                                                                      
     When the compulsory  attendance age of 16  was set, the                                                                    
     world was a  different place.  It was  very possible to                                                                    
     get good jobs  without a high school diploma.   That is                                                                    
     not the case in today's world.                                                                                             
     Passing  this bill  will provide  districts with  "some                                                                    
     teeth"  to our  anti-dropout  plans.   It will  provide                                                                    
     support  to  parents  who  are  trying  to  keep  their                                                                    
     children  in school.    Through  attendance clerks  and                                                                    
     counselors, and excellent  tracking records of students                                                                    
     who leave  school, and [by] encouraging  them to enroll                                                                    
     in  alternative programs  or  re-enroll  back into  the                                                                    
     school  district,  we  will be  able  to  increase  our                                                                    
     graduation rates and decrease  our dropout rates.  When                                                                    
     Texas  raised  their  compulsory  attendance  age,  the                                                                    
     Pasadena Independent  School District recorded  the low                                                                    
     annual dropout rate of 1.6 percent.                                                                                        
     The dropout  problem is so  alarming we must do  all we                                                                    
     can  to  turn it  around.    Increasing the  compulsory                                                                    
     attendance  age  can be  an  important  component in  a                                                                    
     comprehensive effort  to limit  the number  of students                                                                    
     who drop-out  of school each year.   Research indicates                                                                    
     there  is  no  single  reason a  student  drops-out  of                                                                    
     school,  but  that  a  combination  of  factors  acting                                                                    
     together increases the probability.                                                                                        
     Understanding the dropout crisis  is not a simple task,                                                                    
     and  improvement requires  improvement  at all  levels.                                                                    
     School  districts, communities,  and  parents all  play                                                                    
     important  roles in  preventing students  from dropping                                                                    
     out of  school.   When students miss  school frequently                                                                    
     and/or drop-out of school, they  are unable to gain the                                                                    
     knowledge and  skills they will need  to be successful.                                                                    
     They are not  prepared for the work force  and they are                                                                    
     not prepared for postsecondary education.                                                                                  
     Raising  the  compulsory  attendance age  will  not  by                                                                    
     itself solve  our dropout  problem.  It  is our  job as                                                                    
     educators  to  focus  on  meeting   the  needs  of  all                                                                    
     students   by   creating  learning   environments   and                                                                    
     opportunities   that   employ   alternative   programs,                                                                    
     supervised work experience,  and additional counseling.                                                                    
     However,  setting  the  expectation that  all  students                                                                    
     should stay in school until  they graduate or reach the                                                                    
     age of  18 sends the  message that we  value education.                                                                    
     It sets  the stage  for students  to take  advantage of                                                                    
     the  educational  opportunities afforded  them  through                                                                    
     public education  and prepares  them for  their future.                                                                    
     All students  should leave high school  "work ready and                                                                    
     college ready."  It is  not reasonable to think that 16                                                                    
     year old students are at this point.                                                                                       
     Increasing  the compulsory  attendance  age  can be  an                                                                    
     important component in a  comprehensive effort to limit                                                                    
     the  number of  students  who drop-out  of school  each                                                                    
     I encourage you  to pass HB 33.  Send  the message that                                                                    
     Alaskans  value education  and expect  our children  to                                                                    
     graduate leaving  high school  "work ready  and college                                                                    
8:14:25 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON  asked if  those who drop-out  in Fairbanks  are all                                                               
age 16.                                                                                                                         
MS. WAGONER  responded no,  but noted  that students  drop-out at                                                               
different  ages,  but  many are  merely  waiting  for  their  16                                                                
birthday to  drop-out.  Ms.  Wagoner informed the  committee that                                                               
research has found that potential  drop-outs can be identified at                                                               
an  early age,  by third  grade.   In fact,  warning signs  for a                                                               
potential  drop-out can  be  seen as  early  as kindergarten  and                                                               
first grade.                                                                                                                    
8:15:39 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER asked  if  students who  are  at risk  of                                                               
dropping  out   have  access  to  alternative   programs  without                                                               
parental support.                                                                                                               
MS.  WAGONER  commented  that the  district  always  attempts  to                                                               
include  parents   in  educational   decisions.     However,  the                                                               
Fairbanks North Star Borough School  District, as do other school                                                               
districts, has  programs for struggling  students.   For example,                                                               
Fairbanks has a  career education program for  those students who                                                               
don't function well in a traditional  program and only need a few                                                               
credits  to graduate.   The  student can  take advantage  of this                                                               
program  without   parental  involvement.     She   reminded  the                                                               
committee  that correspondence  and home  schooling programs  are                                                               
also available.   In further response  to Representative Gardner,                                                               
Ms.  Wagoner  confirmed that  students  with  parents who  aren't                                                               
engaged  or responsive  to the  school district  have options  to                                                               
find their own way to some of the programs.                                                                                     
8:18:24 AM                                                                                                                    
BARB ANGAIAK,  President, NEA-Alaska, related that  NEA-Alaska is                                                               
in support of  any measure that would encourage  students to stay                                                               
in  school longer.   Although  the  organization isn't  convinced                                                               
that  this  legislation  will  solve  the  drop-out  problem,  it                                                               
certainly can't  hurt.   In fact, the  legislation may  help some                                                               
students who are on the fence, she suggested.                                                                                   
8:19:39 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON recalled that NEA,  nationally, supports raising the                                                               
compulsory attendance age to 21.   He then asked if NEA-Alaska is                                                               
supportive of such.                                                                                                             
MS. ANGAIAK replied yes, adding that  the feeling is that as long                                                               
as students are in school, there's a chance of educating them.                                                                  
8:20:13 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER highlighted an  e-mail [from Steve Pratt],                                                               
in  the  committee  packet, which  encourages  the  committee  to                                                               
ensure that any decisions on  the mandatory school attendance age                                                               
doesn't  increase  class  size,   reduce  teacher  attention,  or                                                               
redirect resources  from students who  wish to remain  in school.                                                               
Representative Gardner asked Ms. Angaiak  to speak to the concern                                                               
of  the possible  increased disruption  from  those students  who                                                               
have no interest in being in school.                                                                                            
MS. ANGAIAK opined  that the [state] has an  obligation to ensure                                                               
that  school   districts  offer   what's  needed  for   a  child.                                                               
Therefore, if different classes and  programs have to be offered,                                                               
it doesn't  necessarily take away  from the education  of others.                                                               
She  pointed out  that schools  already have  disruptive students                                                               
who don't want to  be at school.  "We are working  hard to try to                                                               
help  develop programs  and plans  to  address the  needs of  all                                                               
kids," she stated.                                                                                                              
8:22:00 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON  inquired as to the  structure of a school  in which                                                               
there are  older students, who do  not want to be  in school, and                                                               
incoming freshmen.                                                                                                              
MS. ANGAIAK informed  the committee that the  middle school model                                                               
has  been very  successful in  many  cases.   Schools across  the                                                               
state, particularly  those working on continuous  progress models                                                               
of  older  students  who  are  in the  same  classes  as  younger                                                               
students,  already exist.   She  noted  that as  a middle  school                                                               
teacher in  Bethel the age of  those in her class  range from age                                                               
12 to 18.                                                                                                                       
8:23:20 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON closed public testimony.                                                                                           
8:23:39 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BUCH inquired as to how truancy will be enforced.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ  reminded the  committee that in  the Juneau                                                               
School District  one in four  students don't finish  high school.                                                               
Furthermore,  there are  higher  drop-out rates,  as  high as  54                                                               
percent,  for  some  minority  populations.     With  these  high                                                               
statistics, it is impossible to  say that these drop-outs are all                                                               
disruptive  students.    The  current   law  and  HB  33  provide                                                               
exemptions  for   individuals  to  pursue.     She  informed  the                                                               
committee that the  Juneau School District has  a truancy officer                                                               
who works to  enforce attendance of those students  under the age                                                               
of  16 who  aren't attending  school.   This legislation  doesn't                                                               
include funding for  truancy officers.  However,  she opined that                                                               
there's a lot of support for truancy officers.                                                                                  
8:27:18 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON recalled that one of  the concerns has been that the                                                               
current   exemptions  allow   any   parent  to   say  he/she   is                                                               
homeschooling  their   child.     Furthermore,  there   are  work                                                               
exemptions and  other "holes in  the system" that  allow children                                                               
under the age of 16 to leave school.                                                                                            
8:28:14 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  related her experience as  a school nurse,                                                               
and  the  attempts  she  made to  encourage  students  to  attend                                                               
school.  She opined that HB 33 is probably needed.                                                                              
8:29:49 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER   expressed  opposition   to  HB   33  and                                                               
announced  that  he  would oppose  the  legislation  leaving  the                                                               
committee.  He said that he  wants to do something to address the                                                               
drop-out rate,  but he believes  keeping a student in  school who                                                               
doesn't  want to  attend  is harmful.   He  pointed  out that  in                                                               
Alaska a high  value is placed on  freedom of choice.   In fact a                                                               
couple of  cases heard by  the Alaska Supreme Court  specify that                                                               
children  have   fundamental  rights   under  the   Alaska  State                                                               
Constitution.  This matter also  touches parental rights, in that                                                               
parents  have  the  right  to  the  care  and  custody  of  their                                                               
children.   Furthermore, there  is no  evidence that  raising the                                                               
compulsory  school attendance  age  will help.    In fact,  other                                                               
states with  higher compulsory  attendance ages  don't illustrate                                                               
any  correlation  in  higher graduation  rates.    Representative                                                               
Keller said that the success  stories in particular schools, such                                                               
as those  at Chugach High School,  [Juneau's] alternative school,                                                               
and the military academy, are more compelling.                                                                                  
8:33:40 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER, referring  to  an  article in  "Education                                                               
Week," related that the results  of exit interviews, conducted by                                                               
the Gates  Foundation, with drop-outs  between the age of  16 and                                                               
25  overwhelmingly found  that the  students weren't  challenged,                                                               
were  unmotivated,  and  have problems  outside  the  context  of                                                               
academics.    Representative  Keller expressed  his  belief  that                                                               
forcing children to stay in  school won't help [with the drop-out                                                               
8:34:24 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR   SEATON  directed   the  committee's   attention  to   the                                                               
Legislative  Research Report  09.172 entitled  "Compulsory School                                                               
Attendance Age and Statistics  Associated with Education Levels."                                                               
The  report  references  a  2007  Gates  Foundation  report  that                                                               
concludes  that [raising  the  compulsory  school attendance  age                                                               
should  be   done  in  conjunction  with   providing  alternative                                                               
learning  opportunities  and  other  educational  reforms.    The                                                               
Legislative   Research  Report   also   relates  the   following:                                                               
"Opponents  of  raising  compulsory  attendance  ages  hold  that                                                               
requiring all young  people under age of 18 to  attend school can                                                               
marginalize  those  who  fare  least  well  in  traditional  high                                                               
school. ... The Home School  Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is                                                               
staunchly against  raising mandatory  age limits."   Chair Seaton                                                               
also  highlighted  that  the  Legislative  Research  Report  also                                                               
relates the following:                                                                                                          
     Dr.  Jay  Smink,  executive director  of  the  National                                                                    
     Dropout  Center, believes  that raising  the compulsory                                                                    
     school  age  might  be  a  good  idea.    He  cautions,                                                                    
     however,  that  raising   the  compulsory  age  without                                                                    
     identifying  struggling  students  and  providing  them                                                                    
     with alternative  learning opportunities,  would result                                                                    
     in no benefit.                                                                                                             
CHAIR SEATON went  on to point out that a  New Brunswick, Canada,                                                               
study found  that there wasn't  any change in the  relative drop-                                                               
out rate  in New  Brunswick, although  there were  small positive                                                               
effects in  the United  States.   He then  reviewed the  top five                                                               
reasons dropouts identify  as major factors in  their decision to                                                               
drop-out.  Chair Seaton expressed  the need to critically analyze                                                               
all the issues.                                                                                                                 
8:37:16 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE EDGMON stated that although  he won't oppose HB 33                                                               
leaving  committee today,  he pointed  out that  school districts                                                               
have  varying   resources  available  to  address   the  drop-out                                                               
situation.   He suggested  that perhaps  at some  point something                                                               
other than merely  raising the compulsory attendance  age will be                                                               
8:38:46 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  MUNOZ  highlighted   that  the  committee  packet                                                               
includes   much   information   contrary   to   the   information                                                               
highlighted  by Chair  Seaton.   In  fact,  the committee  packet                                                               
should include letters of support  from organizations such as the                                                               
Alaska School  Board Association, the Anchorage  School District,                                                               
the  Juneau School  District, the  Cordova  School District,  the                                                               
Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand  Camp, and the National Education                                                               
Association.   The  aforementioned  are the  state's own  people.                                                               
Therefore,  she   questioned  where  the  HSLDA   fits  into  the                                                               
discussion of Alaska's drop-out rate.                                                                                           
8:39:43 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON said  that  he was  merely  encouraging members  to                                                               
thoroughly review the committee  packet to ensure a knowledgeable                                                               
decision.   He  then  expressed  the need  for  the committee  to                                                               
consider  that  the problem,  as  related  by the  Juneau  School                                                               
District,  isn't  a  drop-out  problem   but  rather  a  push-out                                                               
problem.   If the  aforementioned is the  case, then  raising the                                                               
compulsory attendance age requirement will be of no consequence.                                                                
8:41:27 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ  clarified that the term  push-out was first                                                               
used by  a local Native  Sisterhood representative  who explained                                                               
the difficulty  for Native Alaskans  to succeed in a  system that                                                               
has  cultural  misunderstandings  toward Native  Alaskans.    The                                                               
Juneau  School District  was  merely present  at  the meeting  in                                                               
which the aforementioned was discussed.                                                                                         
8:42:08 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON informed the  committee that research shows                                                               
that  adolescent brains  do not  mature, to  the extent  of fully                                                               
understanding  action  consequences, until  about  age  24.   She                                                               
opined that she  has come to believe that too  many kids are able                                                               
to easily  opt out of  things, and thus  they don't learn  how to                                                               
stick   with   and   work   through   uncomfortable   situations.                                                               
Furthermore, young people aren't  developed enough to realize the                                                               
consequences of quitting school.                                                                                                
8:44:22 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER noted that  often studies or research [can                                                               
be  found] showing  both sides  of an  issue.   She asked  if the                                                               
committee agrees  that there should  be compulsory  attendance at                                                               
all in schools.   If so, the question is  what age is appropriate                                                               
for  the student  or  family to  decide  they've received  enough                                                               
education.    She  mentioned her  agreement  with  Representative                                                               
Wilson that  kids don't  have the  information and  experience to                                                               
make some  important decisions.   However,  the CD  How Institute                                                               
has found  that drop-outs fare worse  later in life in  that they                                                               
earn less  and are  more likely  to be  unemployed, be  on public                                                               
assistance and other welfare programs,  be in jail, and have poor                                                               
health.  Although changing the  compulsory attendance age may not                                                               
impact  the drop-out  rate to  the  extent desired,  it may  help                                                               
some.   Raising the compulsory  attendance age, she opined,  is a                                                               
small piece in  conjunction with programs that are  known to work                                                               
in  keeping  students  in  school.    With  regard  to  the  exit                                                               
interview   responses,   Representative   Gardner   related   her                                                               
skepticism because of a student's limited vision.                                                                               
8:47:54 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON stated that HB 33 would be held.                                                                                   

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 206 material.pdf HEDC 3/27/2009 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 4/3/2009 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 2/1/2010 8:00:00 AM
Compulsory_Comparison.pdf HEDC 3/27/2009 8:00:00 AM
hb 33 material.pdf HEDC 3/27/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 33
HB 33 material II.pdf HEDC 3/27/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 33