• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 1s

High school exit exam leaves some students behind

By Alexis Fernandez 10:05 PM March 4, 2014

School counselors weigh in on high school exit exam debate

ANCHORAGE – To test or not to test? That’s the question being debated in high schools across Alaska, including at East High School.

As state lawmakers debate whether to eliminate the high school exit exam, some school counselors are weighing in.

“There isn’t a significant benefit except for kids that pass it,” said Scott Henry, an ELL counselor at East High School.

Henry says he sees the downside of the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam (HSGQE) firsthand.

“It’s really tragic to see kids that work really, really, really hard for three or four years once they get here, to be one or two points away,” Henry said.

He says the group being left behind, is the English Language Learner (ELL) students.

“If a student comes here when they’re 16 or 17 — and they’re brand new to the country and brand new to the language, the reality of them passing those tests is low,” Henry said.

According to Henry, out of the nearly 500 students who graduated from East last year, 50 failed the test and didn’t get a diploma. Instead they got a Certificate of Achievement.

He says although it’s a small percentage, these students will eventually impact the future workforce.

“They aren’t able to get into college, and even with the military, only some branches are accepting a certificate of attendance,” he continued.

According to Alaska Department of Education, the exit exam went into effect in 2004.

Since then, 2,388 students have received a certificate instead of a diploma. Last year, 364 were given — 132 of those were ELL students.

Here in Anchorage, 108 certificates were given out last year, about three percent of the graduating class.

Henry says the current culture of testing is hurting students, rather than helping.

“Not having it tied to whether they get a diploma, that might be a much more functional approach than having this hard line that says if you can’t pass it, you don’t earn a diploma,” Henry said.

But not everyone agrees. David Nees, a retired Anchorage School District teacher of 25 years, says the exam serves a purpose.

“It lets the public know that when you have a high school degree, that you actually are kind of competent, in reading, writing and mathematics,” Nees said.

And believes it needs to stay.

“It’s the only measurement that we have right now that actually meaures mastery in something,” he said.

Two very different answers to a complicated debate that is far from over.

Latest Stories

  • News

    Following fire, Eagle River residents get home safety tips

    by Eric Ruble on May 28, 18:49

    The recent fire near Eagle River has reminded some Alaskans of the need to be fire ready, or “FireWise.” The Anchorage Fire Department’s FireWise program is helping Alaskans keep their properties safe this summer, when fire conditions are considered dangerous. Watching the plumes of smoke billow from his Eagle River balcony Friday afternoon, Rick Roberts […]

  • Sports

    High school runner brings spotlight to Alaska transgender policy

    by Jake Edmonds on May 28, 13:05

    Haines runner Nattaphon Wangyot qualified for the girls 1-2-3A 100-meter and 200-meter finals Friday afternoon at the high school state track and field meet, but unlike her competitors, she was born with male anatomy. Transgender equality has become a hot topic of discussion around the country, and Alaska is no exception. The Alaska Schools Activities […]

  • News

    Pasco frozen food company lays off 61 in wake of recall

    by Associated Press on May 28, 12:32

    A Pasco frozen food company has laid off 61 more workers amid an ongoing shutdown in connection to listeria contamination in some of its products. The Tri-City Herald reports that CRF Frozen Foods announced the additional layoffs Friday, raising the total number of workers laid off to more than 300. CRF Frozen Foods has recalled […]

  • Lifestyle

    Earliest snowmelt on record in Barrow

    by Emily Russell / KNOM on May 28, 12:21

    Snow in the northernmost town in the nation is melting earlier than ever before on record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Observatory in Barrow reported a snowmelt staring on May 13. That’s 10 days earlier than the previous record set in 2002. NOAA has been recording snowmelt from its Barrow Observatory for over 70 years. The […]

  • News

    Health experts: Move Rio Olympics due to Zika outbreak

    by Associated Press on May 28, 10:25

    Health experts on Friday urged the World Health Organization to consider whether the Rio de Janeiro Olympics should be postponed or moved because of the Zika outbreak. The 150 experts — including former White House science adviser Dr. Philip Rubin — issued an open letter to the U.N. health agency, calling for the games to be delayed or […]

  • News

    Crews work to mop up Hiland Fire near Eagle River

    by KTVA 11 News on May 27, 22:18

      Last updated at 3:11 p.m. on Saturday, May 28 EAGLE RIVER — A large number of emergency responders spent Friday evening battling a small wildfire near Hiland Road in Eagle River. By Saturday afternoon, the fire was 100-percent contained and crews were conducting mop-up operations, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry (DOF). In […]

  • News

    From WWII to Vietnam: Wasilla veteran remembers 28 years of service

    by Lauren Maxwell on May 27, 21:36

    There may not be many people who can claim they fought in World War II, became a German prisoner of war then stayed in the military to complete two tours of duty in Vietnam, but Wasilla resident Walter Ferguson is one of them. Walt and his wife Lila are both 91 years old. They met […]

  • Lifestyle

    Anchorage store goes above and beyond to support deaf employees

    by Shannon Ballard on May 27, 20:30

    Inside the South Anchorage Petco there are plenty of sounds to grab your attention, but 22-year-old Joseph Martin works in silence. “I can’t hear and it’s hard they don’t understand. I can’t talk,” Joseph Martin said using sign language. When KTVA spoke to Joseph Martin on Friday, his mom Jane did her best to interpret. […]