Legislature(2001 - 2002)

03/10/2001 10:40 AM Senate HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CHAIRMAN  LYDA GREEN called  the Senate Health,  Education  & Social                                                          
Services  Committee meeting  to order at 10:40  a.m.   Present  were                                                            
Senators  Leman and  Ward  (via teleconference),  Davis,  and  Chair                                                            
Green.  Senator Wilken was excused to attend a funeral.                                                                         
CHAIR GREEN said  this issue has generated a lot of  legislation. SB
120, introduced by Senator  Ward, would require students to take the                                                            
test and an endorsement  would be shown for those subjects passed on                                                            
the diploma.   Students who  do not pass will  have an Alaskan  flag                                                            
symbol put on their diplomas.   SB 128, introduced by Senator Leman,                                                            
creates a two-year  delay.  During the two-year delay,  students who                                                            
pass all  or part of  the exam  will obtain an  endorsement  for the                                                            
parts passed on  their diplomas and transcripts.   The Department of                                                            
Education  and Early  Development  (DOEED)  would then  work on  the                                                            
language for the  endorsement.  In 2004, students  would be required                                                            
to pass the exam  in order to receive a diploma.   She asked Senator                                                            
Davis to explain SB 129.                                                                                                        
SENATOR DAVIS,  sponsor of  SB 129, said this  bill is very  simple.                                                            
She supports standards  and has been involved in that  movement with                                                            
the State  board of  education -  she wants that  work to  continue.                                                            
For that reason,  she introduced a  bill to phase in the  exit exam.                                                            
The exit exam  practice test results  show that students  did better                                                            
in reading and writing  than they did in math.  SB 129 would require                                                            
every student  to pass the reading  and writing portion of  the exit                                                            
exam in  2004 to receive  a diploma.  During  the two years  between                                                            
2002  and 2004,  any student  who takes  the test  would receive  an                                                            
endorsement  for the area  passed, be it  math, reading or  writing.                                                            
In 2005, students would  be required to pass the math portion.   She                                                            
maintained  that it is  very important  for students  to get  a high                                                            
school diploma.   It is required to join the military  or get a job.                                                            
She believes more  money should be put into programs  so that school                                                            
districts  can  align their  curricula  with  the test  and  provide                                                            
CHAIR GREEN  indicated  that the committee  has  been asked to  make                                                            
provisions  for those students  with an IEP  and/or 504 plan  and to                                                            
pass  on those  directions to  the state  board of  education.   She                                                            
agrees with Senator Davis  in that the legislature does not have the                                                            
expertise  to do that.   Chair Green reminded  participants  that SB
133 is  not an appropriation  bill;  it does  not address  education                                                            
funding.   In addition,  the committee  will not  be discussing  the                                                            
theory  of why students  should be  tested.  The  committee  will be                                                            
discussing  the  four  bills  before   the  committee.    She  asked                                                            
participants to confine  their comments to those bills.  Her goal is                                                            
to create a  bill that will work until  another legislature  decides                                                            
to change  and/or improve  it.  She noted  that any type of  exam of                                                            
this sort is an  evolving thing.  Included therefore,  are questions                                                            
in each test that students  will not be held responsible for.  Those                                                            
questions are designed  as a field test.  Regardless of what test is                                                            
used, the process will always be evolving.                                                                                      
CHAIR GREEN welcomed Senator Taylor.                                                                                            
CHAIR GREEN  said that  the committee is  creating instructions  for                                                            
the state board of education  and DOEED for the parameters of how to                                                            
keep on  track of requiring  a variety of  testing assessments  that                                                            
will take every student to the top of his or her ability.                                                                       
MR. GREG MALONEY, Director  of Special Education, DOEED, stated that                                                            
one of  the specific components  of SB 133  relates to how  students                                                            
with   disabilities,   as  defined   under  the   Individuals   with                                                            
Disabilities  Education Act of 97  (IDEA 97), and also Section  504.                                                            
He will be  reviewing how IDEA 97  relates to statewide assessments                                                             
and then relate that to SB 133.                                                                                                 
The intent  of IDEA 97  is very clear that  all students,  including                                                            
students  with  disabilities,   need  to participate   in  statewide                                                            
assessments  for   several  reasons.    First,  it   is  looking  at                                                            
individual student outcomes,  so that students with disabilities are                                                            
held to the same  high standards that students without  disabilities                                                            
are  held   to.    Second,  it  will   ensure  that  students   with                                                            
disabilities are receiving  access to the general curriculum - not a                                                            
separate  program.  Third,  it will be used  to prove instructional                                                             
accountability  so that students with disabilities  are seen as part                                                            
of the  overall educational  enrollment  so that  the curriculum  is                                                            
sensitive  to, and able  to meet,  those students'  needs.   IDEA 97                                                            
requires  that  students  with  disabilities   be  included  in  the                                                            
statewide  assessment   process  and  that  the  results   of  their                                                            
participation be considered in looking at improving instruction.                                                                
In  terms of  how a  student  with a  disability  participates,  the                                                            
Individualized  Education Program  (IEP) team is the primary  agent.                                                            
The  IEP team  creates an  instructional  program  for the  student.                                                            
That  instructional  program  contains  the types  of  services  the                                                            
student  requires in  order to  be successful  and  the location  of                                                            
those  services.    In addition,   the IEP  contains  the  kinds  of                                                            
accommodations  or modifications required by the student  to be able                                                            
to participate appropriately in school activities.                                                                              
Currently, a student with  a disability can participate in statewide                                                            
assessments in three ways.   First, the student may participate with                                                            
no  accommodations.    Second,  the  student  may  participate  with                                                            
accommodations.   Those  accommodations  are determined  by the  IEP                                                            
team or the  504 group, based on DOEED's  Participation Guidelines.                                                             
The  third  way, which  is  for  a small  number  of  students  with                                                            
significant  disabilities and/or cognitive  impairments who  are not                                                            
working  on an  academic  curriculum,  is an  alternate assessment.                                                             
That  assessment  is  still  designed  around  standards  but  those                                                            
standards  have been  interpreted at  a level  meaningful for  these                                                            
students.    The alternative  assessment  consists  of  a  portfolio                                                            
assessment  in which products completed  by the student are  scored.                                                            
CHAIR GREEN  asked if SB  133 contains adequate  language for  DOEED                                                            
and  the state  board  to assume  that  is  where they  are  headed,                                                            
because  it is  her  intention  to provide  for  the three  ways  to                                                            
participate in a statewide assessment.                                                                                          
MR.  MALONEY  said   that  nothing  in  SB  133  would   change  the                                                            
requirement  that  students have  to  participate in  the  statewide                                                            
assessments.   SB 133 speaks to students  who do not pass  the exam,                                                            
which  implies  that they  must  take it.    He noted  that  because                                                            
students  with  disabilities  cannot be  discriminated  against  and                                                            
separated  out,  they  would  be  expected  to  participate  in  the                                                            
statewide   assessments  as  students   without  disabilities   are.                                                            
DOEED's  goal is that  all students  participate.   The alternative                                                             
assessment  is for  students for  whom the  exit exam  would not  be                                                            
appropriate;  it is not a test or  separate exam.  It is  a process.                                                            
CHAIR  GREEN asked  if the  three methods  of taking  the  statewide                                                            
assessment  are stock language and  standard procedure within  DOEED                                                            
and the state board.                                                                                                            
MR.  MALONEY  said that  is  correct and  that  it is  also  federal                                                            
language.  Under IDEA 97,  the expectation is that all students will                                                            
participate  in the  same  assessment process.    The concern  about                                                            
separating  students with disabilities  from the larger population,                                                             
is that a separate  system is being set up.  The tension  comes when                                                            
successfully  addressing the  students' needs  within a system  that                                                            
encompasses all students.                                                                                                       
MR. MALONEY said  it is important to note that the  IEP team's role,                                                            
in terms  of the assessments,  is not a separate  component.   It is                                                            
tied  to  the instructional   program that  the  student  should  be                                                            
receiving  anyway and the  accommodations  should have already  been                                                            
introduced  into  the student's  program.    No  new accommodations                                                             
should be necessary  for the assessment.  Certainly,  the goal is to                                                            
have every student  pass the exit exam but, under  IDEA 97, the goal                                                            
is also  positive student  outcomes and  improved accountability  at                                                            
the district level.  The graduation aspect comes afterward.                                                                     
MR. MALONEY said  SB 133 speaks of an alternative  assessment, which                                                            
differs  from  DOEED's   alternate  assessment.     For  DOEED,  the                                                            
alternate assessment is  a very specific, defined process that would                                                            
only pertain to about 1 to 2 percent of students in Alaska.                                                                     
CHAIR GREEN asked if the language in SB 133 should be changed.                                                                  
MR. MALONEY replied the  bill refers to an alternative assessment so                                                            
if that  provision  is to  go to  the state  board  of education  to                                                            
clarify,  that language  will be  fine.  Regarding  the alternative                                                             
assessment,  he  understands  that  a  separate  test  will  not  be                                                            
developed  but an  alternative process  of assessment  based on  the                                                            
test would  be developed  for the students  with disabilities.   The                                                            
alternative process of  assessment would be used when those students                                                            
do not pass the exit exam.                                                                                                      
SENATOR DAVIS asked if  Mr. Maloney was referring to all students or                                                            
students with  disabilities only.   She noted that SB 133  speaks to                                                            
those  students that  do not  pass the  exit exam,  not necessarily                                                             
students with disabilities.                                                                                                     
MR. MALONEY said  he is referring to students with  disabilities and                                                            
Section 3(d)(1) on page 2, line 31.                                                                                             
SENATOR   DAVIS  asked  if   he  was  speaking   to  students   with                                                            
disabilities only.                                                                                                              
MR. MALONEY said  that is the only thing he feels  qualified to talk                                                            
CHAIR  GREEN informed  Senator  Davis  that other  DOEED  department                                                            
members would speak to the committee next week.                                                                                 
MR. MALONEY  repeated  that it  is important  to  remember that  the                                                            
focus is not  on a separate process  for students with disabilities                                                             
but one that  recognizes differences  in learning styles.   Students                                                            
with  disabilities  should   be  held  to  high  standards  but  not                                                            
penalized for their disabilities.                                                                                               
CHAIR GREEN took public testimony.                                                                                              
Number 1456                                                                                                                     
MS. PHYLLICE BRADNER MATSON, a parent from Juneau, said her                                                                     
comments will not relate to the bills because she has not had a                                                                 
chance to review them.  She read the following testimony.                                                                       
     I urge  the committee  to consider that  the exit exam  as                                                                 
     outlined  in the current legislation  is not the best  way                                                                 
     for  the state to  meet its two most  important education                                                                  
     goals:  one, to guarantee  that every  student who passed                                                                  
     all the required  high school classes receive  the diploma                                                                 
     that he  or she has earned; and  two, to ensure that  each                                                                 
     graduate  know the  basics of  reading,  writing and  math                                                                 
     before receiving  that diploma.   A better approach  would                                                                 
     be  to  identify  those  math  and  English  classes  that                                                                 
     represent  the benchmark  skills required  for graduation                                                                  
     and  substitute  the exit  exam  with  standardized  final                                                                 
     exams  in those classes  in every middle  school and  high                                                                 
     school  in   Alaska.    If  a  student  cannot  pass   the                                                                 
     standardized  final, that child  must repeat the class  or                                                                 
     take  a  remedial  class  until  the  final  exam  can  be                                                                 
     mastered.  This method would  not only measure a student's                                                                 
     understanding  of the  subject, but provide  a remedy  for                                                                 
     the  student  to  learn  the subject  before  graduation.                                                                  
     Students  having learning disabilities  and special  needs                                                                 
     are   most  likely   to   be  using   the  504   and   IEP                                                                 
     accommodations  in  their classrooms  and  those students                                                                  
     would be able  to take the standardized final  test in the                                                                 
     same manner  that any other tests  are administered  under                                                                 
     the guidelines of their program.                                                                                           
     Again, I urge this committee  to recommend eliminating the                                                                 
     exit exams and instead to  institute a policy that demands                                                                 
     that each  student truly pass each basic math  and English                                                                 
     class  before moving  on to the  next level.   It is  also                                                                 
     extremely  important to recognize  that not all graduates                                                                  
     are  going  on to  college.    A high  school  diploma  is                                                                 
     essential  for young  people to secure  entry level  jobs.                                                                 
     We must  be realistic about what  level of skills will  be                                                                 
     necessary  for graduates to lead  youthful and productive                                                                  
     lives  and not set the  bar too high  above those levels.                                                                  
     Those  students  going  on  to  college  will  have  other                                                                 
     measures  of college  readiness  in the form  of SATs  and                                                                 
     entrance  exams.   We must  not forget  our obligation  to                                                                 
     provide students who are  not college bound with the tools                                                                 
     they  will need  for  a successful  life.   That includes                                                                  
     fundamental,  not necessarily advanced, literacy  and math                                                                 
     skills and a viable high school diploma.  Thank you.                                                                       
CHAIR GREEN  said most people would  agree that students  should not                                                            
go on to  the next level  if they have not  passed an exam  but deep                                                            
down we know that is not the case.                                                                                              
MS. BRADNER  MATSON  said that  she is  suggesting  that instead  of                                                            
using   a  standardized   exit  exam,   Alaska   should  require   a                                                            
standardized   final  exam  for  each   of  the  benchmark   classes                                                            
determined  by DOEED.   If the  standardized exam  can identify  the                                                            
students that  cannot pass that class, that class  should be retaken                                                            
or remedial  work should  be completed until  the student can  pass.                                                            
She noted that once a student  has passed every single class in high                                                            
school, even with  a D grade, we are tacitly guaranteeing  them that                                                            
they have earned  a diploma.  To tell  them that all of the  classes                                                            
they passed don't mean  a thing if they cannot pass the exit exam is                                                            
cheating them.                                                                                                                  
Number 1600                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  GREEN  maintained   that  the  Legislature   "gets  a  little                                                            
schizophrenic  when we get to the local control issue."   One of her                                                            
concerns with  exit exams in general is that if the  state comes in,                                                            
what is to keep  the "feds" from coming in and overlaying  the state                                                            
exam  with another  one.   She thanked  Ms. Bradner  Matson for  her                                                            
SENATOR TAYLOR  noted that of the bills introduced  on this subject,                                                            
all talk about continuing  to utilize the diplomas as they have been                                                            
in the past and not making  victims out of children through creating                                                            
this exam.   That was never the intent  of the Legislature  when the                                                            
accountability  process was enacted.  He thanked Ms.  Bradner Matson                                                            
for her testimony and said  it is refreshing to hear her suggestions                                                            
because he believes that  is the system used when he went to school.                                                            
 He  can remember  classmates  failing  specific subject  areas  and                                                            
having  to retake  them, maybe  through  a summer  course, and  only                                                            
advancing  when  certain requirements   were met.   There  was  some                                                            
integrity  with the  system that  said that  if you  don't get  past                                                            
these things, we can't,  in good faith, give you a diploma.  He said                                                            
he liked the  word "tacit."  Because  a student has sat in  a school                                                            
for 10  years, there is  the tacit implication  that the student  is                                                            
knowledgeable in a given area, which unfortunately is not true.                                                                 
MS. BRADNER  MATSON said  if the student has  passed the class,  the                                                            
school  has actually  told them  that.   She noted  that is why  she                                                            
suggested  standardized   finals  to  remove  the  possibility  that                                                            
students will squeak through a class they did not really pass.                                                                  
SENATOR  TAYLOR thanked  her again  and said,  "That's solid  stuff.                                                            
It's not  reflected here  but I think  it is  reflected in the  fact                                                            
that we're not  going to be denying those kids those  diplomas.  The                                                            
next question  is,  how do you  reflect  what they  have done  and I                                                            
think your suggestion is superior to ours."                                                                                     
CHAIR  GREEN said  she  doesn't think  SB  133 supercedes  what  Ms.                                                            
Bradner  Matson  is  talking  about.   She  pointed  out  that  many                                                            
districts  around  Alaska   are  giving  tests  that  are  far  more                                                            
difficult  than the exit  exam.   Passing those  tests may not  keep                                                            
students  from  graduating  but  it shows  the  districts  what  the                                                            
students  know and  what areas  need improvement.   The Legislature                                                             
does not want  to tell districts they cannot do that.   She repeated                                                            
that the Legislature  has to be very careful about  the line between                                                            
local control, state oversight, and permission and regulations.                                                                 
Number 1840                                                                                                                     
SENATOR DAVIS also thanked  Ms. Bradner Matson for her testimony but                                                            
noted that  things are  being done  to make sure  that students  are                                                            
learning  the materials at  grade level.   She informed Ms.  Bradner                                                            
Matson  that Alaska  schools are  administering  benchmark exams  at                                                            
grades 3, 6,  and 8.  In Anchorage,  student profiles are  done when                                                            
students enter kindergarten.   If students do not pass the 3rd grade                                                            
benchmark exam, remediation  is done.  She believes over a period of                                                            
years we  will be where  we need  to be in  the standards  movement.                                                            
She said that grades do  not mean that much - a child with a D grade                                                            
may  not have  learned  less than  a child  with  a B  grade.   When                                                            
students  are tested to the  material, schools  know they have  what                                                            
they need.                                                                                                                      
MS. BRADNER MATSON asked  why, at that point, when schools have gone                                                            
through  this full  system of  assessments from  elementary  through                                                            
high schools, the exit exam would be necessary.                                                                                 
SENATOR DAVIS  said that is a good  question.  She pointed  out that                                                            
once we get to that level,  the exit exam requirement might be taken                                                            
off of the books,  but when the law was passed in  1997, many people                                                            
from  the  business  community  testified   that  many  high  school                                                            
graduates were not trained and ready for the job market.                                                                        
MS. BRADNER  MATSON pointed  out that  students may  learn a  lot in                                                            
classes  and know the  material but  do not  remember that  material                                                            
several years later.  That  is one reason that giving the final exam                                                            
as the  class ends  would be a  more useful measure  of whether  the                                                            
student understood the material.                                                                                                
CHAIR  GREEN  thanked Ms.  Bradner  Matson  and  asked Mr.  Rose  to                                                            
MR.  CARL ROSE,  Executive  Director of  the Association  of  Alaska                                                            
School  Boards (AASB),  said  that all  four pieces  of legislation                                                             
recognize  the  need  for  more  time  for  several  reasons:    the                                                            
defensibility of the test and time for school alignment.                                                                        
MR. ROSE  said SB  120 will allow  more time  and recognize  student                                                            
achievement  through  endorsements.   SB 128  goes  beyond that  and                                                            
establishes   a  sunset  date  of   2004.    SB  133  is   the  most                                                            
comprehensive  bill before  the committee and  captures most  of the                                                            
testimony given.   SB 133 contains  some additional components  that                                                            
have been identified, the  first being essential skills.  As we talk                                                            
about  the  need  to  refine  measurement  tools,  the  question  of                                                            
essential  skills  comes  up.   When  the  legislation  requiring  a                                                            
competency exam was being  discussed, the focus was on basic skills.                                                            
As  the   performance   standards  and   corresponding  measurement                                                             
instruments   were  developed,   the  help   of  many  experts   was                                                            
incorporated.  As many  have testified, the math portion of the test                                                            
does not appear  to be difficult to the math experts.   The question                                                            
to be answered  regarding  essential skills  is whether the  lack of                                                            
specific knowledge  would keep a person from getting  a diploma.  He                                                            
believes that  under SB 133, the reading,  writing, and mathematics                                                             
tests will all have to be refined to what is essential.                                                                         
Regarding military  transfers, MR. ROSE said there  is no answer.  A                                                            
student who  transfers into this state  as a junior has not  had the                                                            
opportunity  to take the benchmark  exams and will be at  a distinct                                                            
disadvantage.     A   waiver,  in   that  circumstance,   would   be                                                            
appropriate.   Furthermore, as that  waiver for a military  transfer                                                            
is an  extraordinary  circumstance,  an appeal  process through  the                                                            
state board of  education may be an option.  Right  now, SB 133 does                                                            
not contain an option to  request a waiver and an appeal process for                                                            
extraordinary circumstances.                                                                                                    
CHAIR  GREEN asked  Mr. Rose  if he thinks  the language  in SB  133                                                            
regarding waivers is too broad.                                                                                                 
MR. ROSE said  he believes the bill  should address what  the waiver                                                            
will entail.                                                                                                                    
CHAIR GREEN  said she would think  that a death in the family  might                                                            
constitute an extraordinary circumstance.                                                                                       
MR. ROSE  said  that trying  to handle  those types  of definitions                                                             
through the committee process can become difficult.                                                                             
CHAIR  GREEN said  if  the committee's  intent  is  documented,  the                                                            
committee  can watch how  the system  reacts over  time.  She  noted                                                            
that the lack  of an appeal process has been the basis  for lawsuits                                                            
in other  states, even when  the other aspects  of the test  seem to                                                            
pass muster.  She said  she is not sure that the waiver process does                                                            
not allow for an appeal.                                                                                                        
MR. ROSE said an appeal  with a process that ensures that a standard                                                            
has been met is  an important component of the bill.   Regarding the                                                            
IEP issue,  he has seen a response  from the Disability Law  Center.                                                            
He felt there  are two options:  to give the issue  back to DOEED to                                                            
come up  with a fix;  or to come  up with  something in legislation                                                             
that passes  muster.   He felt  many people  appreciate having  some                                                            
direction in  the legislation.  He  advised that if this  portion of                                                            
the bill  causes great consternation,  that  issue can be handed  to                                                            
DOEED or the professionals to handle.                                                                                           
CHAIR  GREEN  said the  committee  could  write  a cover  letter  to                                                            
accompany the bill saying  that it expects DOEED and the state board                                                            
of education  to be very critical  in their approach toward  solving                                                            
this problem and to maintain high standards and accountability.                                                                 
TAPE 01-18, SIDE B                                                                                                              
MR. ROSE said in conclusion,  seven bills have been offered.  All of                                                            
them recognize  the need for an extension.   He believes  SB 133 has                                                            
incorporated  most  of  the  testimony.    SB  133  takes  the  most                                                            
comprehensive approach  with one caveat:  the need for the extension                                                            
is so critical  that this  issue needs to be  put behind us.   As he                                                            
said earlier,  the more provisions  that are added to the  bill, the                                                            
more difficult  it will be to decipher.  If SB 133  becomes so heavy                                                            
that it does  not pass, there is a  good possibility the  State will                                                            
run into 2002  unprepared.  He thanked the committee  for all of the                                                            
work it has done.  He stated support for SB 133.                                                                                
SENATOR  TAYLOR  noted Mr.  Rose indicated  that  all  of the  bills                                                            
provide for  a transition from two  to six years, and that  Mr. Rose                                                            
thought  four  years  was  a  likely solution.    He  asked  if  the                                                            
committee had met to discuss Senator Ward's bill, SB 120.                                                                       
CHAIR GREEN said anyone can discuss any of the bills.                                                                           
SENATOR TAYLOR  commented that SB  120 has the same schematic  as SB
133 in that  it provides no transition  but instead provides  for an                                                            
endorsement.    He  agrees  that  an  appeal  process  is  necessary                                                            
otherwise one  student could cause  the whole exam to be  thrown out                                                            
because the necessary  processes were not available.   He noted that                                                            
"waiver"  means several things  to him.  A  waiver could involve  an                                                            
extraordinary,  very unique situation, such as a military  transfer.                                                            
But, waiving,  if  interpreted too  broadly,  could involve  waiving                                                            
everyone from the test.                                                                                                         
He stated,  "I also believe  that we have  to address both  sides of                                                            
the issue when  we come to competency  and waiver, and, if  in fact,                                                            
we're  going  to  waive  for  someone   who  has  not  yet  met  the                                                            
requirements and it's unique,  why aren't we waiving the last two or                                                            
three years of  school if that kid's already passed  that test?  Why                                                            
should  we keep  that kid  sitting around  in a  classroom bored  to                                                            
death  when he's  already  met or  she's  already met  every  single                                                            
qualification for graduation?"                                                                                                  
CHAIR GREEN replied,  "Because they have not completed  the required                                                            
number of course credits."                                                                                                      
SENATOR TAYLOR  said the student should not need the  course credits                                                            
if the student completed the competency test.                                                                                   
CHAIR GREEN  noted that  course credits are  required under  current                                                            
SENATOR TAYLOR  asked what should be done about the  14 year old who                                                            
is capable of working on  a PhD.  He felt there needs to be a way to                                                            
address  those unique  situations.   He commented  he would like  to                                                            
hear the professional community  on that issue and expressed concern                                                            
that  "We are doing  everything  we can  right now,  it appears,  to                                                            
bring  this  thing  down  to  the  lowest  common   denominator  for                                                            
competency that  we can find and I'd like to know  that when we drop                                                            
to that low  denominator, that maybe  we ought to have some  kind of                                                            
high denominator too that  says if you can pass the high one and you                                                            
can challenge  our courses,  you walk  out of  here early and  we'll                                                            
give you  the next  two years  tuition we  would have  paid in  high                                                            
school to help you out get through college."                                                                                    
CHAIR GREEN said she cannot  speak to that, but she thinks that some                                                            
schools  are addressing  those  situations within  their  districts.                                                            
She stated it  is difficult to draft something in  Juneau that works                                                            
for all districts in the State.                                                                                                 
Number 2200                                                                                                                     
SENATOR TAYLOR  asked Mr. Rose how many benchmarks  are in use today                                                            
and questioned  whether a benchmark is a diagnostic  tool or whether                                                            
it can be used to keep a student from moving on.                                                                                
MR. ROSE said  benchmarks are used as a diagnostic  tool to identify                                                            
whether a student  is at grade level and to determine  the student's                                                            
areas of need.   They are a measure  to make sure that students  are                                                            
progressing.   He noted  for him,  the whole idea  of the  benchmark                                                            
centers around  the 3rd grade  mark.  If students  are not  at their                                                            
benchmark  by 3rd  grade,  a gap  starts to  develop  that makes  it                                                            
difficult to handle material in later grades.                                                                                   
SENATOR TAYLOR  asked what  is being done when  a student is  not at                                                            
grade level.   He maintained that  11th grade students have  taken a                                                            
lot of  benchmark  exams but  are not at  grade level.  He asked  if                                                            
third grade students who are not at grade level are held back.                                                                  
MR. ROSE replied  the reason the test is given in  3rd, 6th, and 8th                                                            
grade is that the areas  of need can be identified and a student has                                                            
several  years  to  get  up on  step.    If  a child  is  not  able,                                                            
intervention strategies should be put in place.                                                                                 
SENATOR TAYLOR  said we aren't  doing anything.   We're giving  them                                                            
until grade  6 and at that time everyone  throws up their  hands and                                                            
says it didn't work.                                                                                                            
MR. ROSE said that is not what he said.                                                                                         
CHAIR GREEN  stated that additional  tests are being given  to these                                                            
students.  She  added the committee is not having  that conversation                                                            
Number 2050                                                                                                                     
MR.  ED MCLAIN,  Assistant  Superintendent  of the  Kenai  Peninsula                                                            
Borough School District,  said his district has in place a certified                                                            
diploma process,  which was put in  place about one year  before the                                                            
state  began  its process.    One  of  the critical  pieces  of  the                                                            
district's process was  to get the community, business people, board                                                            
members and  parents to identify what  essential skills high  school                                                            
students  should  have to  lead  a successful  life.  The  essential                                                            
skills  were  distinguished  as  a  subset  of  the  full  array  of                                                            
performance standards.   The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District                                                            
is in support  of the full array of performance standards.  When the                                                            
state began  to develop its test,  it was a mismatch between  trying                                                            
to capture and assess the  full array of standards.  He noted he was                                                            
the co-chair  of that committee and  is the co-chair of the  content                                                            
review  committee.    The  committee,   at  that  point,  were  math                                                            
specialists  and they were looking  at the math portion from  a math                                                            
perspective.   They did a good job  of testing a full array  of math                                                            
skills.   SB 133  brings  attention back  to the  essential  skills.                                                            
Regarding  Senator Taylor's  concern,  he said  the Kenai  Peninsula                                                            
Borough School  District is recognizing advanced students  and has a                                                            
program that provides funding  for seniors who are ready for college                                                            
courses.   His district  believes that  is best taken  care of  on a                                                            
local level because of the multiple opportunity aspect.                                                                         
MR.  MCLAIN commented  that  he  agrees  with a  lot of  Mr.  Rose's                                                            
testimony.   He agrees that  the waiver provision  needs to  be tied                                                            
down quickly  but that sort of thing  gets very detailed,  so rather                                                            
than include the details  in the bill, the details can be given over                                                            
to DOEED.    He would  like an  allowance  for waivers  in the  bill                                                            
because it  is the right  thing to do for  students, as well  as for                                                            
the legal defensibility aspect.                                                                                                 
Regarding  the IEP  provision, he  believes that  successfully  used                                                            
accommodations  should   be  part  and parcel   of  the educational                                                             
programming and not a last  minute add-on for testing.  His district                                                            
believes  strongly   in  the  idea   of  accountability   and  in  a                                                            
demonstration of learning.                                                                                                      
MR. MCLAIN  concluded by saying the  Kenai District appreciates  the                                                            
intent  language in  the bill  as it  gives encouragement  to  local                                                            
districts.  He offered to answer questions.                                                                                     
MS.  STAR PATTERSON,  an educator  and  parent, made  the  following                                                            
comments via  teleconference from  Fairbanks.  She has administered                                                             
the  HSGQE   four  times.    She   believes  SB  133  is   the  most                                                            
comprehensive  and best piece of legislation  before the  committee.                                                            
She asked the  committee to consider  that the year 2006  is optimum                                                            
because students  taking the test  now have not had the opportunity                                                             
to take the  benchmark exams and to  learn.  The Class of  2006 will                                                            
at least have  had the benefit of the 6th grade benchmark  exam.  In                                                            
the rural areas, teachers  leave every year.  Those students will be                                                            
the victims.                                                                                                                    
CHAIR GREEN asked Ms. Patterson if she has seen SB 133.                                                                         
MS. PATTERSON said she has.                                                                                                     
CHAIR  GREEN noted  that the  high school  essential  skills do  not                                                            
include algebra and geometry.                                                                                                   
MS. PATTERSON  said that is good.   She asked the committee  to look                                                            
at  the 2006  date.   She  feels  the  Governor  is correct  as  the                                                            
students who must take  the test now have not had the opportunity to                                                            
learn.  She maintained  that the exit exam is extremely  intense and                                                            
that some students need  8 hours to take it. In the last test round,                                                            
out of 42 students,  all but four took it very seriously.   The test                                                            
is rigorous and demanding physically and mentally.                                                                              
Number 1600                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  GREEN pointed  out that  the whole  purpose of  SB 133  is to                                                            
align the  exam with what  students are required  to take in  school                                                            
under the current  statute.  That  is a far different standard  from                                                            
what might be expected of a college-bound student.                                                                              
MS. PATTERSON  emphasized that the test is good.   A few things need                                                            
to be adjusted  but it is a fair test.  The standards  are excellent                                                            
but the students  need the opportunity  to learn the material.   She                                                            
asked that  the test not be thrown  out but revised and not  "dumbed                                                            
MR. RICHARD MAUER,  representing the Delta-Greeley  School District,                                                            
and  President-elect  of the  Association  of Alaska  School  Boards                                                            
(AASB), stated  that SB 133  is an excellent  piece of legislation.                                                             
It is comprehensive  and addresses many of AASB's  concerns.  He has                                                            
worked on the  benchmarks, as well as the math portion  of the exam,                                                            
both on the original  committee and the current committee,  which is                                                            
determining whether  the current standards exceed  essential skills.                                                            
He also  served on the  school designator  committee.  One  thing he                                                            
likes about  SB 133 is that testing  will be continued.   Testing is                                                            
essential for  the students and the data used from  the exam will be                                                            
used  in  the  school  designator  formula.     He  appreciates  the                                                            
committee's  efforts to  leave no  child behind  through the  waiver                                                            
process and the alternative  assessment.  He commented he favors the                                                            
language  on  page 2,  line  26, that  says  the  test will  not  be                                                            
administered  during  a  day in  session.   He  cautioned  that  the                                                            
committee  may hear concerns  that Saturday  testing is an  unfunded                                                            
mandate.  He has no problem with that but others may.                                                                           
CHAIR GREEN noted  that it is possible that proctors  could give the                                                            
test to free up teachers.                                                                                                       
MR. MAUER said in his profession  he administers testing centers and                                                            
he has  proctors who do  not have to meet  the same qualifications.                                                             
Mr. Mauer referred  to the language  on page 3, line 5 that  relates                                                            
to uniform  standards and suggested  including a provision  to allow                                                            
for reciprocity  so that students who transfer in  from other states                                                            
that have passed  an exam elsewhere would not have  to take Alaska's                                                            
exam.  He also advocates  that endorsements be placed on transcripts                                                            
and diplomas and he favors leaving that to local districts.                                                                     
CHAIR GREEN  said that she, Senator  Taylor and Senator Davis  think                                                            
the reciprocity idea is a good one.                                                                                             
MS. PATRICIA GRISWOLD,  a mother of eight children  from Delta, said                                                            
she agrees that if schools  used a standard form of testing for each                                                            
grade,  there  would be  no  need  for the  HSGQE.   She  noted  the                                                            
essential  skills exam will  make things too  easy for our  students                                                            
and make  them  feel inferior.   In  addition, science  and  history                                                            
courses  are required  for  graduation yet  those  subjects are  not                                                            
covered in  the exit exam at all.   She believes if students  do not                                                            
pass a standard  exam each year, they should not move  onto the next                                                            
MS. LOUISE  PARISH, testifying from  Valdez, said she favors  making                                                            
the exam  an essential  skills test.   The exit  exam reading  skill                                                            
level was at about 7th  or 8th grade.  She believes with appropriate                                                            
remediation,  every  child should  be able  to learn  the  essential                                                            
skills.   Regarding  the waiver process,  she is  concerned that  it                                                            
will  provide an  out for  the schools  for students  with  learning                                                            
disabilities.   She inquired  whether writing  will be required  for                                                            
the essential  skills test  as the bill refers  to reading,  English                                                            
and math.  She thinks using  a regents diploma for students who want                                                            
a greater  challenge is a  good idea.  She  prefers using an  appeal                                                            
process rather  than a waiver  from DOEED.   She fears that  waivers                                                            
will  be granted  in  place  of providing  remedial  classes.    She                                                            
expressed concern that  under the IEP process, minimums must be met.                                                            
CHAIR GREEN reminded Ms.  Parish that SB 133 only offers one type of                                                            
diploma -  no IEP diploma  is offered.   In addition, she  clarified                                                            
that she mentioned  earlier that neither algebra nor  geometry would                                                            
be on the essential skills  test but if those are determined at some                                                            
point to be essential skills, they will be on the exam.                                                                         
MS.  PARISH  said she  feels  an  IEP  diploma would  be  unfair  to                                                            
MS. JOAN BOHMANN,  a school psychologist  from Anchorage,  expressed                                                            
concern about putting designations  on the diploma for vocational or                                                            
technical courses  because those designations may  limit a student's                                                            
options  in the  future.   In  addition,  she would  like  to see  a                                                            
reference  to the  ability to use  accommodations  while taking  the                                                            
exam in the legislation.   The function of accommodations  under the                                                            
IDEA   legislation   is  that   the  student   gets   used  to   the                                                            
accommodations  and that their appropriateness  is evaluated  before                                                            
utilizing them  solely for a test.  She appreciates  the committee's                                                            
CHAIR GREEN said  the three methods of providing for  testing - with                                                            
or without  accommodations  or offering an  alternate test,  overlay                                                            
the entire  concept in the  bill and will  be used by DOEED  and the                                                            
board   when  they   promulgate   regulations   for  students   with                                                            
Number 465                                                                                                                      
MS. AMY  HEADRICK,  representing the  Disability  Law Center  (DLC),                                                            
said she  has not had an  opportunity to  thoroughly review  SB 133.                                                            
She applauded  Mr. Maloney's comments  on programming because  that,                                                            
in essence,  is the problem that the  DLC has with any of  the bills                                                            
before the  committee.  The DLC fully  supports exams and  standards                                                            
and expects  every student  to meet  those standards.   In  reaching                                                            
those standards,  the DLC  expects every school  in Alaska  to teach                                                            
all students  to those  standards,  except the very  few who  cannot                                                            
meet them.   She noted that to keep  commenting on various  bills is                                                            
difficult  when they all  avoid the issue.   She explained  that she                                                            
has been  involved with  a case for  the last  three weeks that  has                                                            
taken  all of  her time.   She  is representing  a  7th grader  with                                                            
emotional disturbances.   Since he  has been in third grade,  he has                                                            
been slated to  take the exam with appropriate accommodations,  such                                                            
as an interpreter.   As a 7th grader,  he is reading at a  2nd grade                                                            
level, his English  ability is at a 2nd grade level  and his math is                                                            
at a 3rd grade  level.  He has received very little  education since                                                            
last November.  The school  district is fighting DLC tooth and nail.                                                            
 DLC cannot even get a  program from the district that would educate                                                            
this young  man and  point to his  needs.  This  child's parent  has                                                            
advocated for him but some  have suggested to her that she sign over                                                            
custody to DFYS and abandon  her son so that he can get the services                                                            
he needs.   Ms. Headrick  said she is stunned  by what she  has seen                                                            
since January. Every department points its finger at another.                                                                   
CHAIR GREEN asked  Ms. Headrick if she heard from  any agency people                                                            
MS. HEADRICK said  she did but she spoke to those  people before and                                                            
they are not  the ones who can help.   She stated the problems  with                                                            
the special education system  need to be addressed now.  The exam is                                                            
not the  issue, the education  is.  Her one  comment on the  bill is                                                            
that  the  waiver   and  alternate  assessment  could   give  school                                                            
districts  an out as  far as living  up to the  requirements  of the                                                            
CHAIR GREEN said  she expects DOEED to address that  problem through                                                            
regulation.  She noted  that when statistics about how districts are                                                            
qualifying  students  to  take  an  alternate  assessment  and  when                                                            
accommodations  are allowed are collected,  out of sync percentages                                                             
can be addressed.                                                                                                               
MS. DEB  GERMANO,  testifying via  teleconference  from Homer,  said                                                            
that SB 133 appears  to be very comprehensive and  all of the pieces                                                            
are  on the  table.   She  suggested  keeping  the bill  simple  and                                                            
concise  so  that it  does  not offer  too  many  back doors.    She                                                            
expressed  concern  about  administering  the  exam  and  said  that                                                            
additional  staff, such as  proctors, will  cost money.  She  is not                                                            
sure  what the  answer to  that problem  is; the  Homer district  is                                                            
making  sure that  a lot  of good activities  are  being offered  in                                                            
classrooms  while  the  exam  is  being  administered.    The  Homer                                                            
district is losing precious  professional development time needed to                                                            
help districts meet the standards.                                                                                              
TAPE 01-19, SIDE A                                                                                                              
MS.  MARYJEANNE  YRAGUI,  from Kenai,  said  the  test needs  to  be                                                            
totally  revised.    She  has  talked  with  parents,  students  and                                                            
teachers.   Students have  to take one year  of algebra but  they do                                                            
not have to take geometry  or a second year of algebra, yet the exit                                                            
exam contains questions  from both of those subjects.  The exit exam                                                            
contained a question on  the quadratic formula but the practice test                                                            
did not  contain a  similar question  so none  of the students  were                                                            
prepared for  it.  She favors delaying  the exam. She believes  that                                                            
students need  to be made more accountable.  She questioned  whether                                                            
the  exit  exam  grade will  remain  on  students'  records  if  the                                                            
requirement date is changed.                                                                                                    
CHAIR GREEN  explained that  for the years  2002 and 2003,  the only                                                            
students  who  would  have  any  reference   on  their  diplomas  or                                                            
transcripts are those who passed the test.                                                                                      
MS. YRAGUI asked whether  the transcript will contain a letter grade                                                            
for the exam or "passed."                                                                                                       
CHAIR GREEN said that will be determined by DOEED.                                                                              
MS. YRAGUI  said she is  concerned about the  students who  pass the                                                            
test the  first time with  a low grade.   That grade will  label the                                                            
MR. RAY BARNES,  testifying from Homer,  said his son is  profoundly                                                            
deaf and has  an interpreter and an  IEP.  His son is an  honor roll                                                            
student.  He  is not looking for waivers,  he is looking  for a fair                                                            
evaluation  process.    His son  is  a  freshman  and the  issue  of                                                            
accommodations  for the  exit exam  is affecting  him strongly.   He                                                            
explained that the interpreter  translates the English language into                                                            
American  Sign Language  (ASL).  ASL  is his  son's first  language.                                                            
Most of the  information on tests  he takes now is conveyed  through                                                            
the interpreter.   He does not feel the legislature  put enough work                                                            
into the 1997  legislation.  That law put all of the  responsibility                                                            
on the  students.   The  whole language  movement  approach  failed.                                                            
Now, all of a  sudden, the students are being made  to pay for that.                                                            
He agrees with a lot of  Mr. McLain's and Mr. Rose's statements.  He                                                            
has  had to  fight  the  school board  because  the  district  hired                                                            
unqualified interpreters  who were not certified.   He has been in a                                                            
daily battle  over his son's education.   He is opposed to  giving a                                                            
student a certificate  of attendance after the student  has attended                                                            
12 years of school.   He favors delaying the exam  requirement until                                                            
2006 to give students  the opportunity to take the  benchmark exams.                                                            
CHAIR GREEN  informed Mr. Barnes that  none of the bills  before the                                                            
committee refer to a certificate of attendance.                                                                                 
MS.  SHARON  NUSUNGINYA,  from  Soldotna,  said  she  is  testifying                                                            
because she is concerned  about the effect the exam is having on her                                                            
15  year  old  sons.    Her boys  were  diagnosed   with  Asperger's                                                            
Syndrome,  which  is  recognized  as  a  developmental  disability.                                                             
People with  AS have average to above  average IQs and usually  have                                                            
learning  disabilities or  difficulties  in one or  two areas.   Her                                                            
sons are very knowledgeable  in natural science, geography, history,                                                            
political and  military science, grammar  and reading, however  they                                                            
have a math disability,  poor reading comprehension,  and difficulty                                                            
with abstract  reasoning and writing.   It does not matter  how hard                                                            
they try, they  will not be able to  pass the exit exam because  the                                                            
areas tested are  the areas with which they have a  disability.  Her                                                            
sons are fully  aware that they will not pass the  test and question                                                            
the futility of continuing  with school when they will not receive a                                                            
real diploma.  Their strengths  will go unrecognized.  Children with                                                            
AS have a very high anxiety level.                                                                                              
MS. CAROLYN BARNES, from  Kenai, said her son is a freshman who will                                                            
be expected to take the  exit exam next year.  Her son is profoundly                                                            
deaf and therefore has  a language disability.  If he were tested in                                                            
his natural  language (ASL), he could  ace any test put before  him.                                                            
She  questioned  whether  the exit  exam  is fair  and  in his  best                                                            
interest.   Taking any  test without  the aid  of an interpreter  is                                                            
discriminatory.    She  does not  think  that  this issue  is  being                                                            
addressed.   She was told her son  will not have an interpreter  for                                                            
the exit  exam.  She questioned  how a test  can be made fair  for a                                                            
student who  can't learn to read through  phonics but must  memorize                                                            
every  single word.   To  expect a  deaf student  to  have the  same                                                            
vocabulary  as a hearing  student when their  natural language  is a                                                            
visual language  is unrealistic.   ASL is not a replacement  for the                                                            
English language, it is  a visual language that does the best it can                                                            
to give children  language and meaning  to their world.   It takes a                                                            
lot more  time.   This test will  not raise  standards for  children                                                            
with disabilities  - it will  take away her  son's potential.   This                                                            
will set him up  for failure.  He works harder than  any student she                                                            
knows to make the honor roll.                                                                                                   
Number 992                                                                                                                      
MS. ELIZABETH BACOM, President  of the Petersburg School Board, said                                                            
the  process of  developing  a  fair and  equitable  examination  to                                                            
determine the  competency of graduating high school  students is not                                                            
an  easy  task.   The  original  legislation  did  not  provide  for                                                            
students with  special needs and did not allow adequate  opportunity                                                            
for districts to align  their curricula to the new Alaska standards.                                                            
SB 133 shows her that the  members of the Senate HESS Committee have                                                            
listened carefully to the  concerns of Alaskans and are ready to put                                                            
together  legislation that  will satisfy everyone's  concerns.   She                                                            
applauds several areas:                                                                                                         
   · Allowing special needs students other opportunities to                                                                     
     demonstrate their competency;                                                                                              
   · Allowing an extra two years for districts to align their                                                                   
     curricula with Alaska state standards;                                                                                     
   · Encouraging endorsements on diplomas and celebrating the                                                                   
     educational success of those students in various areas of                                                                  
     their high school career; and                                                                                              
   · Requiring the testing to occur outside of regular                                                                          
     instructional time.                                                                                                        
There are a couple of areas  she would like clarified.  She asked if                                                            
the language change  from "competency testing" to  "essential skills                                                            
examination"  means  the  test  will be  revamped  or  that  several                                                            
avenues will  be available to prove  competency.  Second,  she hopes                                                            
there  will  be  a clear  process  of  waiver  application  and  for                                                            
handling  appeals from parents  and educators  regarding  individual                                                            
waiver requests.  Her final  concern is to have a timely turn around                                                            
time  from  testing  to results  so  that  a  student  who  requires                                                            
remediation  will be able  to set a schedule  as early as  possible.                                                            
It is important,  for example, that  the spring testing results  are                                                            
provided  well in advance  of the first day  of school in the  fall.                                                            
She thanked the committee for its work.                                                                                         
CHAIR GREEN thanked Ms.  Bacom and said she would get back to her on                                                            
the name change to essential skills examination.                                                                                
MS. BACOM  said she is  also concerned about  students who  transfer                                                            
into the Petersburg  district from within the state.   She suggested                                                            
having  an interpreter  for  the ESL  student  when  the student  is                                                            
MS. SHERI  WIKAN,  from Petersburg,  stated  support of  SB 133  but                                                            
asked for clarification of the same points raised by Ms. Bacom.                                                                 
Number 1243                                                                                                                     
MS.  SALLY  DONALDSON,  a  school  counselor  from  Juneau  and  the                                                            
President-elect  of the Alaska School Counselor Association  (ASCA),                                                            
stated support  for delaying the exam.  She appreciated  Ms. Bacom's                                                            
comment  about  transient  students  and  said that  the  fact  that                                                            
students  move  frequently  is  being overlooked   and needs  to  be                                                            
considered.  She thanked  the committee for spending all of the time                                                            
and energy it has on this bill.                                                                                                 
The committee took a brief at-ease.                                                                                             
CHAIR GREEN  stated that no one else  was interested in testifying.                                                             
She asked participants  to call her  office with any other  concerns                                                            
they may have.  She then adjourned the meeting at 12:40 p.m.                                                                    

Document Name Date/Time Subjects