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 Home > News > Class Action Suit Filed Against Alaska's High-Stakes Exit Exam (March 16, 2004)

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Class Action Suit Filed Against Alaska's
High-Stakes Exit Exam

Children 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.

Additional concerns:

* The state department of education accommodations policy is a moving target.
* Accommodations are denied unless / until they've been in place for 90 days.
* 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.

Update, April 7, 2004: Lawyers 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 article

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 exit exams.

Link to an article about lawsuit in the Anchorage Daily News

High-Stakes Tests Links

Learn more about high-stakes tests.

Learn more about accommodations.

Download our informational flyer about high-stakes tests.

More news.

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