Fairbanks School District eliminates graduate tests

Fairbanks High School seniors scheduled to graduate this spring won’t need to take a college entrance exam. At its meeting last night, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board revamped its graduation requirements. The board also heard from some educators unhappy with the district’s new personalized learning model.

Last summer, state lawmakers repealed a requirement that high school students take the ACT, SAT or WorkKeys tests before graduating. The move was meant to cut costs. Several school districts also dropped the requirement and Fairbanks administrators wanted to follow suit. They said retaining the graduation tests would pose logistic and fiscal hurdles. But at last night’s meeting, school board member Mike O’Brien observed the hurdles only get higher once a high school student graduates without taking the tests.

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“And now they really need the WorkKeys, and now there’s no one there to help them get there,” O’Brien said.

Ultimately, O’Brien was the only school member to vote against jettisoning the tests.  And in other actions, the board rescinded related graduation policies and requirements.

While it wasn’t on the agenda, several educators, like West Valley Science teacher Gregory Kahoe, expressed dismay at the district’s recent award to a new software vendor for the personalized learning program.

“Education Elements is a tech-based startup company with a short history and no independent record of success,” Kahoe said.

Kehoe says teachers already deliver personalized learning to students with existing software.

While she didn’t directly address Kahoe’s remarks, Superintendent Karen Gaborik did report on recent training elementary school educators received on personalized learning. She says she and her communication team will work on briefing secondary school teachers on the program and what they can expect.

“Remember middle school is the next phase and they’ll begin in the fall,” Gaborik said. “And then high school not ’til next January.”

Gaborik says elementary school teachers seem to like the new program.

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