Action Suit Filed Against Alaska's
High-Stakes Exit Exam
with disabilities and their parents filed a federal class-action lawsuit
yesterday against the Alaska Board of Education, challenging Alaska's
controversial High School exit exam.
Starting this year, all high school students in Alaska are required
to pass this exit exam in order to receive a diploma.
More than 500 students with disabilities have met all other graduation
requirements but will not get a diploma because they are unable to
pass the exit exam. The suit charges that many disabled students have
become discouraged and have dropped out of school.
The lawsuit charges that Alaska's exit exam violates federal and state
law because it discriminates against students with disabilities in
multiple ways and is designed so students with disabilities will fail,
no matter how smart and hardworking they might be. There are three
areas of concern related to IDEA guarantees:
1. Children with disabilities need to have reasonable accommodations.
2. Children with disabilities need to have an alternative way to be
assessed (the current "optional assessment" is the same
test, not a different assessment)
3. Validity: children should not be tested on things they haven't
been taught / required to learn.
The state department of education accommodations policy is a moving
* Accommodations are denied unless / until they've been in place for
* Students are not allowed more time for the test (the Dept of Ed
claims additional time invalidates the test)
* Students must
fail the regular assessment before they can apply for the other test,
which is like requiring a person in a wheelchair to try to stairs
before allowing them to use the ramp.
According to the complaint, the Alaska Board of Education has created
widespread confusion by repeatedly changing its regulations for disabled
students and what testing modifications they can receive.
Noon v. Alaska was filed on behalf of students with disabilities
and the Learning Disabilities Association of Alaska.
April 7, 2004:
for disabled children, the State of Alaska and Anchorage School District
announced that they reached an agreement, filed with federal court,
which will allow all students with disabilities in the class of 2004
to graduate whether or not they have passed the high school exit exam.
This settlement is expected to affect at least 500 students. Read
Plaintiffs are represented by Disability
Rights Advocates from California, attorneys from Davis Wright
and Tremaine, and the Disability Law
Center of Alaska. Disability Rights Advocates is the California
nonprofit law firm that successfully sued the Oregon and California
Departments of Education over their administration of high stakes
Link to an
article about lawsuit in the Anchorage Daily News