ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The finish line still seems far away for 10,000 New Mexico seniors, who failed a new high school exit exam last spring.
The Standards Based Assessment, or SBA test, is administered over 15 hours in three days in the spring for high school juniors. It gages proficiency in reading, math and science, and passing it is a new requirement beginning this year.
"The tests are high stakes and that raises the anxiety immediately for students," said Shelly Green, APS Interim Chief Academic Officer.
Green said APS got word in early August that 2,145 students, or 37 percent of juniors who took the exam, failed. Students will have the opportunity to re-take the test as seniors in two weeks, giving teachers and parents two months to provide tutoring to get students up to speed.
"They're doing it after school, they're doing it before school, every opportunity they have," said Green.
If seniors fail the test again, the state will accept alternative demonstrations of competency instead of the SBA, such as an SAT or ACT score. This year's seniors can also provide a passing grade in certain English, math and science classes. Next year's seniors, however, will need more than just a passing grade in the class. They'll need to pass an end of course exam in those subjects.
The full list of alternative demonstrations of competency was sent to districts two weeks ago.
Green said it wasn't enough advance notice.
"Students are not machines," said Green. "We're not producing a product on an assembly line. Every student is different, and they have different needs. We are trying to meet the needs of every one of those students."
But Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said it shouldn't come as a surprise. The SBA test requirement is based on a law that passed the state legislature with bi-partisan support in 2008.
"The question is not, oh my goodness, what's in the alternate demonstration of competency? The question is, oh my goodness, how am I preparing my students if I'm a teacher? How am I helping a child if I'm a parent? How am I as a student taking responsibility for what's possible in my education?"
Skandera said expecting students to have a decent grasp of core subjects before they graduate isn't asking much. The secretary said about $27 million is spent each year in New Mexico on remedial courses in college because students are behind.
"It is time to have high expectations and deliver on them and not just talk about them," said Skandera.
Skandera said the SBA test was developed by teachers in New Mexico.
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