Story last updated at 11:39 a.m. Friday, August 2, 2002

Report: State public schools benchmark test grades mixed
by Carey James
Staff Writer

Though district and school-specific scores have yet to be released, Alaska's students showed "steady progress" on the Alaska Benchmark Examinations administered in March 2002, the state education department said.

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development said more students scored at advanced and proficient levels on the exams, which have been given to third-, sixth- and eighth-grade students for three years. Alaska Native students continued to struggle, however.

According to the department, around 75 percent of third-grade students "passed" the reading portion, scoring proficient or advanced. In math, 71 percent passed. Writing was the third-graders' toughest subject, with 58 percent passing the state test.

Sixth-grade students did best in writing, however, with 75.5 percent passing. In reading, 70 percent passed, while 64 percent passed math.

Eighth-grade students continued the sixth-grade slump in mathematics, with less than half, 40.2 percent, passing. Writing posed less of a problem, as 66 percent scored proficient or advanced, and the older students excelled in reading, with 82 percent passing.

While the eighth-grade students showed little increase or decrease in their scores from last year's scores, sixth-grade students increased their writing score 3.3 percent.

The third-grade students showed the greatest increase, with a 9.2 percent jump in the writing score, a 5.8 percent gain in math, and a 2.1 percent increase in reading from the 2000 scores.

While the department said in a press release that it considers the results "very encouraging," the learning gap between Alaska Native and white students continues to be illuminated by the newly imposed state tests.

The gap ranges from 30.4 percent difference in grade eight math to 39.2 percent difference in grade six reading, the department said.

"While the percentage of Native students performing at the proficient and advanced levels has grown, the learning gap is still there," said Shirley Holloway, department commissioner. "To eliminate the learning gap will require a deep commitment for all of us -- parents, teachers, school board members, policy makers, businesses, everybody."

District scores are due out in early August, while school-specific scores are due in mid-September. Students should already have received their scores. Parents of last year's third-, sixth- and eighth-grade students should contact their local school superintendent if they have yet to receive their child's test scores.

Results of the 2002 High School Graduation Qualifying Examination will be released in October. The exam changed in March, and the passing score will be decided in August.

For a full report on the statewide test results, go to the "In the News" link at www.eed.state.ak.us.

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