Second-Class America in Alaska
by Jonathan Doll
June 05, 2004
It's the creation of a second-class
society, this thing called the Exit Exam. Scores of students
from specific cultures or demographic backgrounds will be given
certificates of achievement starting this year instead of diplomas.
But who would know it and who will help change it?
Numbers released last month
by Alaska's Department of Education and Early Development show
that if today's high school students are given the Exit Exam
and three retakes, then some troubling patterns emerge.
46% of Alaska Native students
will no longer be receiving diplomas. Instead, the chosen form
of a reward to students who finish high school will be the Certificate
Students from lower income
families will be also hit hard. A resounding 47% of these students
will be unable to pass the Exit Exam and thus will be eligible
for a certificate, should they remain in school to receive it.
Finally, the group that loses the most will be bilingual or limited
English Proficient (LEP) students. For these students, a stunning
60% will never pass the Exit Exam and never know what it is like
to finish high school with a diploma - even if they fulfill their
Some people are already saying
But kids can t be given a diploma if they do not have the skills
needed in the job world . And this statement is correct. But
what if the Exam itself shows overt signs of bias? Let's examine
For bias to exist would mean
that the Exit Exam itself was targeted towards helping test-takers
who are not Alaska Native, lower income, or LEP. How could that
be? The state spends over $4 million each year to insure that
such things can not take place. Still, this unfortunate result
of having a test prepared Outside seems more and more likely
when you look at the test questions students can practice on.
Senator Con Bunde (Rep.) insures that there are strict security
measures in place so that no one can get a copy of the actual
test. You know - brief cases handcuffed to armed educational
agents and police-escorted motorcades when the test arrives into
town - the whole works!
Still, the state's practice exam, which is located online, just
happens to show the same sense of bias against Alaska Natives,
lower income students, and LEP students that I was talking about.
In it you will find multiple illustrations using the toys of
the middle and upper class - questions about things like palm
pilots, cell phones, long distance calling plans, and traveling
out of state. How often can these things be found in the Bush?
Many villages have no need for palm pilots and 85% of them lack
cellular access. In villages, there is often only a single long
distance calling provider, not a choice between two of them.
The illustrations are inherently more unfamiliar to some of the
Yet worse things happen. On the test, there is the implied idea
that if you don't have these urban toys you haven't really succeeded
as a student. Statements like "most students" have
these things and most people have cell phones handy most of
the time are on the practice exam.
Once again, it is a snow-job. The state promised us that the
exam was unbiased. They even allowed it to be quality checked
by Alaskans. Still, the sludge of western culture was poured
in ever so richly.
This leads us to wonder what can we do to change this.
Jonathan Doll, M.Ed.
Anchorage, AK - USA
State Education Department Releases
Spring High School Exam Scores; Scores Once Again Confirm Learning
Gap For Ethnic Groups...
Sitnews - Wednesday - May 12, 2004
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