AHSGE starts today

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 5, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Today Selma and Dallas County high school students will be put to the test

– the Alabama High School Graduation Exam (AHSGE). Testing will conclude on Friday.

The AHSGE will test sophomores, juniors and seniors in five key areas – reading, language, social studies, science and math.

Students are scheduled to take the reading portion of the test today. They will be asked to read articles, poems, editorials and essays and answer questions to prove their understanding of the content.

A multiple-choice test, the AHSGE is generally written on the eleventh grade level. To receive a diploma from the State of Alabama, a student must pass all sections of the AHSGE and successfully complete the required units of credits established by the state and local boards of education.

Students have at least five chances to take the test – once as sophomores, once as juniors and three times as seniors. High school sophomores are required to take the exam as a “preliminary assessment” to target the academic needs of students, said Dallas County Schools Superintendent Fannie Major-McKenzie.

Preparation for the exam takes place once students start kindergarten, Major-McKenzie said.

If students attend school, they’re exposed to the core curriculum of the exam,” she said.

Dallas County schools does provide extra instruction for students leading up to the exam, scheduling after school tutorials, in-school interventions and remediation courses. The schools also provide AHSGE tutoring during the summer, Major-McKenzie said.

Selma City Schools also provide year-round preparation services for the exam. Dr. Verdell Dawson, city school curriculum supervisor, said Selma High School had a number of academic and motivational activities prior to the testing. She said the student participation in these activities have not been as high as school officials would like.

“The week leading up to the exam, we offered special classes where students who are most at risk of not passing the graduation exam – the seniors – have been pulled into special classes with a teacher who has demonstrated a track record of students passing the graduation exam,” Dawson said.

Dawson said in terms of school accountability, reading and math are the two portions of the test students struggle with the most. Approximately 75% of the math portion tests Algebra and the remaining 25% covers pre-geometry.

The Alabama Department of Education annual school accountability report card showed both Dallas County and Selma City high school students fared well on the AHSGE.

Eighty-eight percent of Selma City School juniors took the exam last year, with 71 percent passing the math portion and 74 percent passing the reading portion.

Of the 90 percent of Dallas County School juniors that took the exam, 58 percent passed the math portion and 72 percent passed the reading portion.

Dawson stressed the community should take the AHSGE exam seriously, citing the test is an important landmark in students’ lives.

“We certainly ask all community persons to help us talk to students about the importance of this test,” she said. “We need parents, church members, everybody around town talking about the importance of this.”

Below is a list of testing tips for parents and students:

Be sure your child/children are at school and on time.

“We are really asking parents that students get to school on time this week and not checked out,” Dawson said.

“If they made doctor’s appointments, we certainly hope that they cancel those. It’s very important that they be there all five days – no absences, no checkouts no tardies.”

Be sure your child gets plenty of rest the night before each test and eat a good breakfast on testing days.

If your child/children have part-or-full time-time jobs, have them arrange to get off work by 5 p.m. during the week the test is given.

Remind your child to work every problem and check their answers carefully.

Help your child come to the test with a positive attitude. Make them aware that there may be items on the tests they may not know the answers to. This makes it more important that they work diligently on items they do know.

Explain to your child that good guessing skills can improve their scores. Students should no simply guess “C” when they don’t know answer, nor should they leave it blank. They should look at all four answers and identify the ones that are definitely wrong.