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Eye On Boise

Luna, state board want to scrap science test as high school grad requirement

Idaho high school students would no longer have to pass a standardized test in science to graduate from high school, under a rule change pushed by state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna and approved by the state Board of Education yesterday; lawmakers still must sign off on the change, which would take effect with the class of 2013. Luna said it wasn't an accurate measure of how students are performing in science. Click below to read a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner.

State scraps science test requirement for students
By JESSIE L. BONNER, Associated Press Writer

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho is scrapping a rule that would have required high school students to pass standardized tests in science before they graduate, starting with the class of 2013.

Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said science classes vary from district to district and students are only tested twice — in the 5th- and 7th-grades — before they are tested by the state in the 10th grade.

"When you only test them in 5th and 7th grade, that's not enough," Luna said Thursday. "We have no way of identifying who needs remediation along the way."

State education officials believe the lack of testing may explain why fewer students were proficient in science than in math and reading on the Idaho Standardized Achievement Tests this year. Public school students are tested more frequently in those subjects.

The current system is not an accurate measure of how students are performing in science, Luna said, "not to the point that we would make it a graduation requirement."

The state Board of Education agreed, voting this week to dump the rule requiring students to test proficient in science before they graduate — at least for now.

The board instructed Luna's department to develop end-of-course assessments in science that students will have to pass in order to graduate, according to documents provided by the board. Those assessments would take effect for the class of 2017.

"We're not removing the science test," Luna said. "They just won't have to demonstrate proficiency to graduate."

That proficiency requirement was part of an effort to boost math and science requirements in 2007, ending a yearlong battle to raise standards that divided churches, educators and some parents. It required students, starting with the class of 2013, to take more math and science classes to graduate high school.

A similar proposal failed in 2006, in part because some groups, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, feared it would cut into religious training after school. Others feared children would have to scale back activities like band or art.

The temporary removal of the science test as a graduation requirement still has to be approved by lawmakers.

"It was a difficult battle when the increased high school gradation requirements were brought to the Legislature," said Sen. John Goedde, a Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee. "It's unfortunate that we're moving backward."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.