Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

03/31/2010 08:00 AM Senate EDUCATION

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08:04:39 AM Start
08:19:11 AM HB360
08:42:27 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
Moved SCS CSHB 360(EDC) Out of Committee
             HB 360-YOUTH ACADEMY: STUDENT RECORDS                                                                          
8:03:53 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  THOMAS announced  consideration of  HB360 [the  version                                                               
before the committee was CSHB 360(EDC)].                                                                                        
8:04:39 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS called a brief at ease.                                                                                         
[No audio until 8:16:42 AM due to technical difficulties.]                                                                      
8:05:21 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS called the meeting back to order.                                                                               
8:05:29 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM,  sponsor of HB 360,  explained that the                                                               
bill  came  about due  to  Alaska's  disappointing dropout  rate.                                                               
Children  who drop  out  or  are expelled  from  high school  are                                                               
unlikely to return  to the classroom on their own;  the option of                                                               
attending the Alaska Youth Military  Academy is available to help                                                               
students finish a  high school diploma or obtain a  GED, but many                                                               
people  don't know  about  it.  HB 360  was  designed to  provide                                                               
another way to get the information  about AYMA out to those kids,                                                               
to let them know they have another choice.                                                                                      
NICOLE HILL,  aide to  Representative Dahlstrom,  emphasized that                                                               
Alaska's graduation rate is only  67 percent. She said statistics                                                               
show  that dropouts  make significantly  lower incomes  than high                                                               
school graduates and  are more likely to commit  crimes. She said                                                               
the Alaska  Challenge Youth Academy  (ACYA) follows  a curriculum                                                               
that  is accredited  by the  Northwest Association  of Accredited                                                               
Schools. It  offers a  22-week residential  program based  on the                                                               
traditional   military   training   model  whereby   cadets   are                                                               
instructed  in   the  following  areas:  life   skills,  academic                                                               
excellence, job  skills, responsible citizenship,  leadership and                                                               
teamwork, health  and hygiene, physical  fitness, and  service to                                                               
the community.  In addition to  these skills, cadets  work toward                                                               
completion of their high school  diploma, earning a GED, or going                                                               
back to finish high school.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM said she  recently attended an event out                                                               
of state  and was  told that the  Alaska Challenge  Youth Academy                                                               
program is seen as a model other states want to copy.                                                                           
8:09:54 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS  asked what  the  success  rate is  of  students                                                               
completing the program.                                                                                                         
MS. HILL said 90 percent.                                                                                                       
8:10:40 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS asked for more detailed statistics.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM said she will get them for him.                                                                        
8:11:06 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS  asked who follows up  when a child drops  out of                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE   DAHLSTROM   referred   that  question   to   the                                                               
Department of Education and Early Development.                                                                                  
8:11:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER said  that question  came  up during  discussions                                                               
about repealing  the exit  exam, and  no one  seems to  know what                                                               
happens to those kids.                                                                                                          
8:12:36 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS  commented  that  ACYA  has  a  very  innovative                                                               
program. He  said he finds  it interesting to hear  the attitudes                                                               
of kids  entering the program  and the change in  their attitudes                                                               
when they finish it successfully.  He mentioned that Chugiak also                                                               
has  a  program  that  helps  kids get  a  GED  or  finish  their                                                               
8:14:32 AM                                                                                                                    
MCHUGH  PIERRE, Deputy  Commissioner,  Department  of Military  &                                                               
Veterans Affairs  (DMVA), Fort Richardson, Alaska,  said the idea                                                               
for HB 360  was brought to Representative Dahlstrom  about a year                                                               
ago by  one of  her constituents,  who said  the state  should do                                                               
more  outreach to  let youth  know about  this program.  DMVA has                                                               
been doing ads  on the local hip-hop station and  trying in other                                                               
ways to reach  them, he said, but reaching out  directly to their                                                               
households may  improve contact  with the  kids and  families who                                                               
need help.                                                                                                                      
MR. PIERRE said he worked  with Representative Dahlstrom's office                                                               
last year and sent a letter  to every school district; only three                                                               
districts responded  and gave them  the names of  their dropouts:                                                               
Nenana  City  school  district, Kenai  Peninsula  Borough  school                                                               
district,  and North  Slope Borough  school district.  This year,                                                               
Representative Dahlstrom wants to  make sure all school districts                                                               
comply.  The  districts currently  give  a  dropout list  to  the                                                               
Department of Education and Early  Development on July 15 of each                                                               
year; the reason  for adding the January 15 date  in this bill is                                                               
that they want  to catch these kids after the  first semester, as                                                               
soon as they drop out.                                                                                                          
He  said enrollment  has been  fairly  steady for  the past  four                                                               
years. During  the Murkowski administration,  it grew  from about                                                               
100 graduates per  class to from 120 to 130  graduates per class;                                                               
they maintained that growth through  this administration and have                                                               
begun  to  increase  again.  ACYA  has 186  beds  total  and  has                                                               
graduated as  many as  161 cadets  in a  class. Classes  begin on                                                               
Thursday, April  1 this  year, and  224 cadets  are signed  up to                                                               
arrive on that date. Their focus  now is to graduate at least 150                                                               
cadets per  class. When they  meet that  goal, they will  aim for                                                               
175 and  then 200 per class;  they really feel they  can graduate                                                               
400  per year.  He said  he believes  this legislation  will help                                                               
them improve their student selection  process and get more cadets                                                               
into the program.                                                                                                               
8:19:11 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS asked Mr. Pierre how they select students.                                                                      
MR.  PIERRE said  the Youth  Academy staff  interview cadets  and                                                               
their parents  between classes;  the goal is  to take  the cadets                                                               
who  are most  likely  to  graduate. Some  dropouts  have only  a                                                               
second-grade reading  level, so it  is very challenging  for them                                                               
to  come  into  the  program  for  the  four  and  a  half  month                                                               
residential  phase and  be successful  at  getting up  to a  high                                                               
school reading level. If they have  two students, one of whom has                                                               
a second-grade  reading level and  another who has  a sixth-grade                                                               
reading  level, they  take the  one  who reads  at a  sixth-grade                                                               
level and encourage  the other child to study  in preparation for                                                               
entering the next class. They  are also trying to screen students                                                               
more  carefully for  health-related  issues like  asthma or  drug                                                               
addiction. These kids  naturally fall out of  the program because                                                               
they  can't meet  the  physical standards  or  are going  through                                                               
withdrawal. If  these kids can  be identified before  they enroll                                                               
in the  program, they can get  help and come into  the next class                                                               
with a better chance of success.                                                                                                
8:21:22 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS  asked if Mr.  Pierre has statistics on  kids who                                                               
complete the  program with a  GED and then  go on to  get further                                                               
high school education.                                                                                                          
MR. PIERRE said,  in the past, school districts  were not allowed                                                               
to receive  students who  had a GED.  The Alaska  Challenge Youth                                                               
Academy  offers only  seven and  a half  high-school credits,  so                                                               
cadets  who come  into the  program  with fewer  than 14  credits                                                               
cannot get a  high-school diploma from AYCA and  will most likely                                                               
get their GEDs. Now that the  law has changed and schools receive                                                               
funding for  those students, all  of their cadets  are encouraged                                                               
to go  back to  high school  and finish  their diplomas,  even if                                                               
they  have gotten  a GED.  As it  stands now  however, about  ten                                                               
cadets  per class  get  their high-school  diplomas  and five  or                                                               
fewer from each class actually end up going back to high school.                                                                
SENATOR HUGGINS  asked if Mr.  Pierre has any information  on the                                                               
hang-up in funding for students who have a GED.                                                                                 
MR. PIERRE said  he does, but thinks the  Department of Education                                                               
and Early Development may prefer to respond to that question.                                                                   
8:23:23 AM                                                                                                                    
LES  MORSE,  Deputy  Commissioner, Department  of  Education  and                                                               
Early  Development  (DEED), Juneau,  Alaska,  stated  he and  the                                                               
commissioner met with Representative  Dahlstrom before HB 360 was                                                               
introduced, and  the commissioner  is very supportive  because of                                                               
his interest  in ensuring that  students have  alternate pathways                                                               
if  they leave  school  without  a diploma  for  any reason.  The                                                               
department does  have minor concerns  about some of  the language                                                               
at  the  end  of  the  bill, he  said,  but  removing  the  words                                                               
"expelled"  and  "dropped  out"  from  the  committee's  proposed                                                               
amendment would satisfy their concerns.                                                                                         
CO-CHAIR  THOMAS   said  he  understood   and  agreed   with  the                                                               
department's reasoning  on that  issue. He  asked Mr.  Morse what                                                               
language the  department would prefer  on page 1, lines  12-14 of                                                               
the bill  and page 2,  lines 2-3. He  noted that the  language in                                                               
the body of the  bill seemed to make it clear  that it applies to                                                               
someone who is not enrolled and has not achieved a GED.                                                                         
MR. MORSE suggested  deleting "were expelled from  or who dropped                                                               
out of" on page 2, lines  16-17 and inserting the word "left". He                                                               
asked if Senator  Thomas would like him to speak  to the language                                                               
in the other amendment.                                                                                                         
CO-CHAIR THOMAS said he would. He  asked if Mr. Morse agreed that                                                               
the language  on page 1, lines  12-14, and on page  2, lines 2-3,                                                               
clearly   stated  which   students   are  the   subject  of   the                                                               
8:28:13 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. MORSE replied that the language  in the bill itself was clear                                                               
in  terms of  which students  should be  included. Regarding  the                                                               
longer amendment provided by the  Department of Law, he suggested                                                               
deleting  "who were  expelled from  or  who dropped  out of"  and                                                               
inserting "to  whom the criteria  described in section 1  of this                                                               
Act become applicable on or after September 1 2010."                                                                            
NEIL  SLOTNICK,  Assistant  Attorney  General,  representing  the                                                               
Department of  Education and  Early Development,  Juneau, Alaska,                                                               
cautioned  that the  words  "expelled" or  "dropped  out of"  are                                                               
words  they  think  would  raise   a  problem  with  the  federal                                                               
government under  the Family Educational  Rights Privacy  Act, so                                                               
they want  to make sure  that those words  are not used.  The Act                                                               
distinguishes  between  directory   information  and  educational                                                               
records; names  and dates of attendance  are considered directory                                                               
information.  He said  the body  of this  Act was  very carefully                                                               
drafted to discuss only names  and dates of attendance; they were                                                               
careful  to avoid  the  reference to  what  would be  educational                                                               
records, which  is implicated  by the use  of terms  like dropped                                                               
out or  expelled. He stressed  that they  don't want to  create a                                                               
problem by using  any of those words in  the un-codified language                                                               
that comes  afterward, and  the problem he  sees with  the longer                                                               
amendment  is that  it  contains the  phrase  "who were  expelled                                                               
from". He  said the  short amendment, which  uses the  words "who                                                               
left  school", clearly  refers  back to  the  language under  the                                                               
criteria.  If  the committee  feels  that  is too  ambiguous,  he                                                               
suggested  they  amend the  problematic  language  to read  "this                                                               
applies to students  to whom the criteria described  in section 1                                                               
of this Act become applicable on or after September 1 2010".                                                                    
SENATOR  DAVIS  asked why  it  took  so  long for  Department  of                                                               
Education and Early Development to bring up this issue.                                                                         
8:31:50 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. SLOTNICK  said they suggested  this change on the  House side                                                               
and  the problematic  terms were  taken out  of the  body of  the                                                               
bill, but overlooked in the un-codified language.                                                                               
8:32:31 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR OLSON joined the meeting.                                                                                               
CO-CHAIR MEYER said  "simpler is better," so he  would favor just                                                               
inserting the word "left" but would  like to speak to the sponsor                                                               
before proposing any amendments.                                                                                                
8:33:49 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM  said both of the  amendments before the                                                               
committee have  the same intent  and she would consider  either a                                                               
friendly amendment.                                                                                                             
MS.  HILL  said  the  reason  behind  the  wording  is  that  the                                                               
districts code students  as dropouts, and this  bill is appealing                                                               
to those students.                                                                                                              
CO-CHAIR THOMAS said he was  puzzled by the inconsistency between                                                               
the federal Act and the fact  that districts code for and collect                                                               
that information.                                                                                                               
8:35:27 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER said  they seem  to have  a dilemma  in that  the                                                               
local districts code it one  way and the federal government looks                                                               
at it in another,  but it appears that they are  going to have to                                                               
make this amendment in order to satisfy the federal government.                                                                 
SENATOR  HUGGINS proposed  they change  it to  "left" and  define                                                               
what that means in regulation.                                                                                                  
CO-CHAIR THOMAS said he sees  no problem unless, by adopting this                                                               
amendment, the districts could  avoid transferring information by                                                               
saying the requirement is not sufficiently specific.                                                                            
CO-CHAIR THOMAS closed public testimony.                                                                                        
8:37:29 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER moved  to adopt  Conceptual Amendment  1 deleting                                                               
"were expelled from  or who dropped out of" on  page 2, lines 16-                                                               
17, and  inserting "left". There  being no objection,  the motion                                                               
carried and Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                                            
8:37:36 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER said  he believes  the administration  is on  the                                                               
record as supporting this amendment,  but would like to hear from                                                               
them one more time.                                                                                                             
MR. MORSE  confirmed the  administration's support  for Amendment                                                               
8:38:37 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR THOMAS  asked Mr. Morse if  the language of the  bill is                                                               
acceptable as a whole.                                                                                                          
MR.  MORSE said  it is  acceptable.  He also  explained that  the                                                               
coding  of  students  as  dropouts allows  them  to  collect  the                                                               
information for  reporting statistics on the  number of dropouts,                                                               
for use  in calculating the  graduation rate, and for  reports to                                                               
the federal  government. The issue,  he said, is really  what can                                                               
be released, and  this information is considered  to be protected                                                               
in terms of identifying individuals.                                                                                            
8:40:00 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER  asked if  the  department  can define  the  word                                                               
"left" in regulation.                                                                                                           
MR. MORSE  said the  language in  the bill  is clear  enough that                                                               
they  can make  it explicit,  either through  regulation or  when                                                               
they communicate to the districts what is required.                                                                             
8:41:10 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS  agreed the data  the districts collect  has been                                                               
used for  statistical reporting and  not in any effort  to rescue                                                               
those students.                                                                                                                 
8:41:50 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER moved  to report  CSHB 360(EDC)  as amended  from                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations  and attached  fiscal                                                               
note(s). There  being no objection,  SCS CSHB 360(EDC)  moved out                                                               
of the committee.                                                                                                               
8:42:27 AM                                                                                                                    
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Co-Chair Thomas adjourned the meeting at 8:42 a.m.                                                                              

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