• 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

  • DayBreak

    Local music shop celebrates 170 years of the saxophone

    by Daybreak Staff on Jun 28, 13:52

    One-hundred-and-seventy years ago Tuesday, the saxophone was patented in 1846. The patent look of it was drawn up and filed by musician and inventor Adolphe sax of Paris, France. In honor of it’s anniversary, Anchorage shop, The Music Man, is celebrating with some workshops, demonstrations and a look at one version of the sax, that can […]

  • News

    Latest: 10 killed, over 20 injured in blasts at Istanbul airport

    by CNN / AP on Jun 28, 12:25

    ISTANBUL (AP) – The Latest on the explosions at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport (all times local): 11:40 p.m. European Union leaders holding an unprecedented summit about Britain’s departure from the bloc are condemning a deadly attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel tweeted from a closed-door meeting Tuesday in Brussels, “Despicable terror attack. […]

  • DayBreak

    ‘Exposure’: Documentary examines Anchorage skate scene

    by Daybreak Staff on Jun 28, 11:43

    The documentary “Exposure” explores the challenges Alaska-based skateboarders face. Viewers will learn about four of Alaska’s best skateboarders as they maintain their passion for riding and a brief history of the skate scene since the 90′s, including what was once was a popular skate shop in Anchorage called Boarderline. Tuesday, executive producer Will Ingram and producer […]

  • News

    Search underway for missing Nome hiker

    by Associated Press on Jun 28, 11:35

    A ground and aerial search is underway for a missing 36-year-old Nome man. Alaska State Troopers say they were notified Monday morning after Joseph Balderas failed to show up for work. State officials say Balderas works as a law clerk for the Alaska court system in Nome. Troopers say Balderas’ vehicle was found around the […]

  • News

    More Olympic woes for Rio as doping control lab shuts down

    by CBS News on Jun 28, 8:36

    Just over five weeks before the Summer Olympics get underway, Rio is still ill-prepared to host the games. Police say they are underpaid and Rio’s acting governor admits the games could be a “big failure” because of budget shortfalls. Now, the doping control lab that was set up to make sure athletes don’t cheat is closed, reports […]

  • Crime

    Fugitive sought by US marshals with warrant dies by suicide

    by Associated Press on Jun 28, 7:49

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – The U.S. Marshals office says a man sought on a federal warrant killed himself Monday night in Anchorage as officers approached his motorhome. Marshals say Brendan James Doyle shot himself at about 6 p.m. Doyle was being sought as a felon in possession of a firearm. Marshals and an Alaska State […]

  • News

    Native corporation seeks to invest more in southeast Alaska

    by Associated Press on Jun 28, 6:33

    KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) – A southeast Alaska Native corporation has announced it will hold its next annual shareholder meeting in a remote village on Prince of Wales Island as it looks to invest further throughout the region. The Ketchikan Daily News reports (http://bit.ly/28ZOwtM ) that Sealaska CEO Anthony Mallott says having the 2017 meeting in […]

  • Lifestyle

    Return of the RV: 5-star camping is on the rise

    by Liz Raines on Jun 27, 22:54

    Many out-of-staters are now picking wheels over water when it comes to making the most of an Alaskan summer. After taking a hit during the 2009 recession, the sale and rental of recreational vehicles (RV) is on the rise. According to Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), RV shipments nationwide dropped dramatically between the summers of […]