• 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

    Customers of Fairbanks utility to see lower bills

    by Associated Press on Feb 01, 13:02

    Customers of the Golden Valley Electric Association in Fairbanks will see smaller bills from the Fairbanks area utility because of lower oil prices. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://is.gd/MAXgrG) reports customers should see a 28 percent reduction in their electric bills this month. The utility’s fuel and purchased power rates are set quarterly, so the utility […]

  • Politics

    Republican majority leaders question AIDEA deal

    by Rhonda McBride on Feb 01, 11:31

    Republican majority leaders say Gov. Bill Walker took them by surprise this week when he announced the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority was taking steps to buy the Pentex Natural Gas Company for more than $52 million. AIDEA announced on Wednesday that, in conjunction with Walker, the corporation signed a letter to purchase Pentex […]

  • Sports

    Slideshow: Knik 200 sled dog race

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 31, 20:10

    It was said that you could “feel the fury in the air,” as 30 teams left the start of the Knik 200 sled dog race at the Deshka Landing Airstrip Saturday afternoon in Willow. Finishing the Knik 200 is a test run for some of the mushers and their dogs, a preparation for Iditarod. “For a lot […]

  • Weather

    Weekend weather forecast

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 31, 19:51

    Sunny skies have taken over the Anchorage area and will be sticking around for the next five to seven days. High pressure has moved in from the west. It really has taken over all of the Interior stretching into the Northwest. This dry pattern will not allow any storm system to track in for about […]

  • News

    UPDATE: 2 in hospital after planes collide mid-air in the Valley

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 31, 15:36

    Troopers are responding to a plane crash in the Mat-Su Valley that occurred Saturday afternoon. Just after 1 p.m., Alaska State Troopers received a report that two aircrafts collided mid-air in the Valley, said AST spokeswoman Megan Peters. Authorities responded to two separate wreckage sites, in the area of Knik-Goose Bay Road and Vine Road. Both planes were […]

  • News

    Less than 50 days ’til Alaska sees 1st day of spring

    by Janessa Webb on Jan 31, 14:19

    While the Midwest and portions of the East coast have been shoveling their way out of a snowstorm, it’s well below average in the snowfall department across the 49th state. A large dome of high pressure took over the state Sunday afternoon, causing temperatures across the southern Seward Peninsula and North Slope to hit 30 […]

  • News

    McDonald’s around Anchorage to let customers ‘pay with lovin’

    by Sierra Starks on Jan 31, 13:57

      Imagine this. A customer walks into his local McDonald’s restaurant to order from the breakfast menu. “Two hash browns and a small coffee,” he tells the cashier, Matt. Instead of giving the customer his total to pay, the cashier says, “You know what? For your payment today, do you have your cell phone with […]

  • News

    UPDATE: Begich will not run for Anchorage mayor, will head company instead

    by Sierra Starks on Jan 31, 13:04

    Former Sen. Mark Begich’s next move is no longer a secret — he will not be running for the Mayor of Anchorage in this year’s election. The former senator has announced that he is instead creating his own company, Northern Compass Group. Begich says the company will focus on developing businesses and working on public […]